Schooling back in the swim for Asia test after tough year

Alastair HIMMER
Singapore's Joseph Schooling has backed himself to bounce back in Jakarta, after a slump following his shock Olympic win against Michael Phelps in Rio

Singapore swim star Joseph Schooling insisted Saturday that he was fighting fit for the Asian Games after suffering an Olympic hangover following his stunning upset over Michael Phelps in Rio.

The 23-year-old toppled Phelps to scoop Olympic gold -- Singapore's first ever -- in the 100 metres butterfly two years ago in the American legend's final individual race.

However, last year he was relegated to bronze at the world championships in Budapest by American pin-up Caeleb Dressel.

"If someone is on, it's hard to beat them," Schooling told AFP on the eve of Asian Games swimming competition in Jakarta.

"It was his meet. People go through progressions. He (Dressel) didn't do as well this year -- that's not bashing on him, that's just the nature of the sport.

"It's a brutal sport and sometimes you've got to just keeping fighting through and see what you come out with."

Schooling shot to fame at the last Asian Games in Incheon four years ago when he captured gold in the 100m fly, silver in the 50m fly and a bronze in the 200m fly.

Despite his wake-up call in Hungary last year, Schooling backed himself to bounce back in Jakarta.

"The Asian Games is always huge," he said. "It's up there with the world championships and a bit under the Olympics.

"I've had some good training under my belt," added Schooling, who has dropped the 200m fly for the 50m freestyle and also goes in the 50m fly and a couple of relays.

"Whenever you can sub a 200 for a 50 it's awesome. I sleep a lot easier!"

Schooling, who will start as clear favourite to win the 100m fly again in Jakarta, has drawn a line under his astonishing Rio success.

"Rio obviously changed my life, but I like to live in the present," he said.

"But you can't forget all the steps you've taken to get to where you are."

With the emergence of Dressel as the sport's next big thing after storming to a record-equalling seven world championship gold medals last year, Schooling is taking a philosophical approach to his preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"You always want to prepare yourself for the worst," he said.

"You can't go in thinking you can breeze through and walk out a winner. I'm always going to expect someone to go stupid times, like Caeleb did last year.

"If someone has a meet like that it's very hard to beat them," added Schooling.

"But this year I'm back on track and I'm trying to raise my own expectations. This is a good stepping stone not only for Tokyo but the worlds next year."