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Sazali Abdul Aziz
Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014

Sports

Commonwealth Games: Joseph Schooling on the brink of history

The New Paper | Sazali Abdul Aziz | Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014

If all goes well, Joseph Schooling could leave Glasgow at the end of the month with Singapore swimming's first Commonwealth Games medal in his luggage.

So said national head coach Ian Turner.

With world swimming powerhouses Australia, Canada, England and South Africa dominating proceedings in the pool, Singapore have never won a swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games.

But Briton Turner, who is also the Singapore Swimming Association's technical director, told The New Paper that he has high hopes that Schooling, 19 (above), can make history for the Republic when the Games begin on Thursday.

He said: "I think Joseph has a good chance of winning a medal.

"He has trained well and is looking relaxed, and his (US-based) coach Sergio Lopez is also confident he can do well." Turner has been keeping a watchful eye over Schooling and a handful of other Singapore swimmers over the past week at a training camp at Surrey Sports Park in London, England.

It has been seven months since Schooling won five gold and one silver medals at last year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, to establish his dominance as the top dog in the region.

But the teenager hasn't been resting on his laurels.

In an effort to gain even more power to cut his times down further at the Commonwealth Games - where he will swim in five individual events and three relays - Schooling has been pumping iron.

"I've started to lift more weights, so physically I'm a lot stronger than I was six, or maybe even four, months ago," Schooling told TNP in a phone interview from London.

LEAN AND MEAN

"Aerobically and anaerobically, I've gotten better, and I think it's just a by-product of training very hard.

"Weight-wise I'm the same, but I've cut down the fat.

"The week here in London has gone well, and I'm feeling good and fit. I'm ready to swim fast."

So is Singapore's top male swimmer a lean, mean fighting machine now?

"I don't know if I'm mean, but I guess you could say I'm leaner!" Schooling laughed.

Turner might have talked up the youngster's chances of winning the Republic's first-ever swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games, but Schooling insisted that he felt no pressure.

"My target at the Commonwealth Games is just to swim my best times, and that's basically the approach I've had at every meet I've raced recently," he said.

"If I manage to do that, I know I'm moving in the right direction.

"Anyway, at the end of the day, the only pressure that should get to me is my own.

"I don't consider expectations from my fellow countrymen pressure. I take it as moral support because I know everyone wants to see me do well and achieve the best I can."

This desire to continually improve is the reason Schooling is making the trip to Glasgow.

Now on his summer break before he starts school at the University of Texas, the 2012 Sportsman of the Year had considered sitting out the Commonwealth Games to take a breather.

But the long-term goal of winning a medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio meant that he knew he could not afford to waste any chance to improve. "Initially, I wanted a break from all competitions and give my mind a rest before I start school again," he said.

"But this is a great opportunity to test myself. There are very few meets - apart from the World Championships and the Olympics - where I can race with some of the world's top swimmers.

"Rio is only two years away. There's the Asian Games in September, the SEA Games next June, the World Championships (next August), then it's Rio.

"Everything's moving quickly and I can't afford to miss any opportunity to race with these guys."


This article was first published on July 21, 2014.
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