SINGAPORE: Since he began his studies in the United States in 2009, swim star Joseph Schooling usually spends only two weeks out of the year in his native Singapore.
His most recent visit was to fulfil his role as an ambassador for the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, which ends on Monday (Aug 31). Compared to his understated life as a student-athlete at the University of Texas, everyone wants a piece of Schooling in Singapore.
“It’s nice,” Schooling admitted. “It just shows that I’m doing well and that people are taking notice of what I’m doing. I can think of it that way, and not in a way that’s a burden."
“It gets tiring. I’m getting pulled here and there. At the same time, it goes to show how well I’m doing and how people are appreciating what I’m trying to do for the country. It’s always a good feeling when I’m in that position," he added, speaking on Friday after a coaching clinic with swimmers from the Special Olympics.
Joseph Schooling (far left) at a coaching clinic with swimmers from the Special Olympics. (Photo: Olivia Quay)
Earlier in August, Schooling claimed the 100-metre butterfly bronze medal at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. His time of 50.96 seconds was almost one second faster than his gold medal victory at the 2014 Asian Games.
Speaking on his steep progress, Schooling said: “I’m not going to be dropping a second every single year. There’s going to be a point in time where if I drop three- or four-tenths – that’s going to be great, just because I’ll be at that level. This shows that I’m improving at a very rapid rate right now. I’ve got youth on my side, whereas all the other guys are in their prime and they’ll be staying there for a while. I’m still rising very quickly.”
His top rivals, South Africa's Chad le Clos and Hungary's László Cseh, are improving as well. In addition, Michael Phelps posted the year’s quickest time in the 100-metre butterfly.
Despite his confidence, Schooling has his work cut out for him for next year’s Olympic Games. All focus will be on Rio 2016 as he has nothing left on his competition calendar for this year.
“I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of Olympic finalists in London for my events,” he said. “They’ve taken notice of me. I think I can consider myself in the mix now for a medal, and try to win it.”