CAPAS, Philippines – Singapore's swimming star Joseph Schooling targets a return to the Olympics as he competes in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games at the New Clark City Aquatics Center here in Tarlac.
Schooling, who shocked 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps in 2016, vies for an Olympic qualifying time-A of 51.96 seconds in the men's 100m butterfly to secure a slot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“I’ll just do my best. Try to make the Olympics in that, and if I do, I’ll be very happy at this point," said Schooling, who turned into an instant world swimming sensation after his golden performance in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The 2019 SEA Games swimming tournament attracted high-level Southeast Asian swimming stars including Singapore's Quah siblings and Malaysia's Welson Sim as the meet serves as an Olympic qualifier for the first time in the history of the regional biennial meet. Schooling’s teammate Quah Zheng Wen had already secured an Olympic slot.
Schooling, though, got off to a disappointing start to his individual events as he failed to defend his SEA Games title in the men's 50m butterfly after yielding to teammate Tzen Wei Teong on Thursday, December 5.
But he's now focused on the 100m butterfly, his best bet to book a ticket to Tokyo.
Schooling currently holds the Olympic record of 50.39 seconds, which he clocked to beat Phelps in Rio.
"Who doesn’t get disappointed when they lose? But at the same time, it’s good to see my teammate up there and like I said, you’ll have some good races and bad races, but just brush it off and look forward to the next one," said Schooling.
The 24-year-old butterfly specialist, though, said he was glad it was no one else other than his teammate Teong who secured the gold.
"I’m not too disappointed in it, obviously. Seeing my teammate in front of me, I would rather have him be ahead of me than anyone else."
Schooling grew up under the care of Filipina nanny Yolanda Pascual, the Cagayan native whom he calls Aunt Yolly and refers to as a “second mom.” The tidbit had Schooling drawing the support of more Filipino fans.
Although Aunt Yolly won’t be able to watch the decorated swimming champion compete in her home country, Schooling hopes to return home with a gold medal and an Olympic berth. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.