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Last but not least, Schooling’s just warming up at Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO — On Tuesday (Aug 9) evening, national swimmer Joseph Schooling listened to the roar of the 15,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Aquatic Stadium as he walked onto the pool deck, took in the glare of the spotlights, and soaked in the feel of the water.

Last but not least, Schooling’s just warming up at Rio

Joseph Schooling after the men's 100m freestyle semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro on Aug 9, 2016. Photo: Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO — On Tuesday (Aug 9) evening, national swimmer Joseph Schooling listened to the roar of the 15,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Aquatic Stadium as he walked onto the pool deck, took in the glare of the spotlights, and soaked in the feel of the water. 

He then placed eighth in the men’s 100m freestyle semi-final, clocking a time of 48.70sec — which saw him missing out on the final after finishing 16th among the field of swimmers.

While some fans back home would have been disappointed with the 21-year-old’s first race here in Rio, Schooling says he is just getting started. In fact, Schooling believes his experience on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, Singapore time) will give him the extra boost needed in his pet event, the men’s 100m butterfly. 

“You just need to get the nerves out, that’s the biggest thing having swum a night swim,” said the swimmer after the semi-final. “I know how I need to feel, how to adjust my body. It (the 100m freestyle semi-final) was all right, I mean I actually warmed up for my 100m fly. I don’t train for this event, so it was nice to be top 16. I’m pleased with it, it’s nice to get out and race these guys. I’m happy, I rest tomorrow, get ready for the 100m fly and then Thursday and Friday it’ll be better.”

As the clocks ticks down to the biggest race of Schooling’s career, one would have expected the swimmer to linger poolside after the 100m freestyle race to catch some of his 100m fly rivals in action in the 200m fly final on Tuesday night. Instead, Schooling went back on the bus to the Olympic Village, ate some supper, watched videos on Youtube and went to bed. 

“I don’t really care (about the rest),” he said. “I haven’t watched my race yet but this morning I dusted everyone off those walls so my fly is looking smooth. I did a 100m fly few days before I took off and by myself, I was 51.4 just trying to get up.”

But while Schooling continues to exude self-belief, the fact remains that his rivals are also in prime condition. American legend Phelps certainly sent a warning to all his opponents in the pool on Tuesday night, as the 31-year-old claimed his first individual gold in the men’s 200m butterfly — reclaiming his title from South Africa’s Chad le Clos who finished fourth — before anchoring the men’s 4x200m freestyle team to a gold later in the evening. 

South African le Clos, who finished fourth in the 200m fly but won a silver in the 100m free, is also expected to be in the mix for medals in the hotly-contested 100m fly. Likewise reigning world champion Laszlo Cseh even though he was a disappointing seventh in the 200m fly final.

Nevertheless, Schooling — who will be swimming beside Phelps in heat 6 on Thursday — is staying cool to the competition. The young swimmer was even able to crack a joke.

“I was just joking to Santo (Condorelli, Canadian swimmer) that the first stroke this morning I almost took a fly stroke so that would have been interesting,” he said. “I’ve not raced freestyle at this level before, it was fun, and nice not having any pressure. That’s why I’m more relaxed now.

And then he ended his quick interview with this promise. 

“With an atmosphere like this, Michael (Phelps) and all beside me, I’ll be a lot faster,” he said.

Watch the live coverage of Rio 2016 on okto and Toggle.  For full details, visit Toggle.sg/Rio2016.

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