Tokyo Olympics: Joseph Schooling's Olympic reign ends in 100m fly heats

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Singapore's Joseph Schooling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Singapore's Joseph Schooling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (PHOTO: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images)

Reporting from Tokyo

TOKYO — Joseph Schooling will not be able to defend his Olympic gold in the men's 100m butterfly final at the Tokyo Olympics, after he was sensationally knocked out in the heats at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre on Thursday (29 July).

He clocked 53.12sec - way slower that his Olympic-record time of 50.39sec set in his gold-medal swim at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and also slower than his year-best of 52.93sec.

The result placed him eighth out of eight swimmers in the heats, and 44th out of 55 participating swimmers. With only the top 16 swimmers progressing into the semi-finals, Schooling thus ended his reign as the Olympic men's 100m fly champion.

Speaking to reporters at the mixed zone, Schooling said the race result was very disappointing but he is determined to bounce back.

"It's hard to swallow, it's hard to digest, but at the same time... you live to fight another day," he said. "And I sure as hell don't want to end (my career) like this, it's just one of those meets."

He added that he had actually been hoping to hit a personal-best time in Tokyo.

"A best time, anything under my record would have been great. But we are definitely way off that," he said.

"We've been working our tail off for the last 15 months, so I definitely had bigger expectations for this. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, sometimes (you) just have an off week. But that's not an excuse, that's just more fuel for the next time."

Schooling had won the event in Rio, clinching the gold ahead of top swim stars such as his idol Michael Phelps, South Africa's Chad le Clos and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, all three of them finishing in joint-second.

Another Singaporean swimmer, Quah Zheng Wen, also took part in the 100m fly heats, and clocked 52.39sec to finish fourth out of eight swimmers in his race, and 34th out of 55 total participants. He also did not advance into the semi-finals.

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