Singapore’s Joseph Schooling wins 5th straight SEA Games gold in 100m butterfly
HANOI – The swagger that Singaporeans know and love about Joseph Schooling was back in the pool on Monday as he claimed his first gold medal at 31st Southeast Asian Games in the 100m butterfly – also his fifth consecutive title in his pet event.
After Schooling touched the wall in 52.22 seconds to claim the top spot at My Dinh Water Sports Palace, he grinned and slapped the water in celebration.
Compatriot Quah Zheng Wen finished second in 52.86sec, with Thai Navaphat Wongcharoen third in 52.98sec.
Schooling and his fans were happy to see him back to his winning ways at the biennial event, his first international meet since the Tokyo Olympics, where he failed to retain his gold medal from Rio.
The 26-year-old had endured a difficult six months after the Olympics, suffering the loss of his father Colin to liver cancer last November before enlisting for national service two months later.
On his race, Schooling said: “The timing was irrelevant for this one. It was about stepping up and getting your hand on the wall first. There are a lot of things we can work on during the race…
“But at the end of the day, I’m glad to get my one and only individual event out of the way. I could be doing more but you just swim the best you can when called upon.”
He added his second gold of the night in the 4x100m medley relay with Maximillian Ang, Quah Zheng Wen and Jonathan Tan.
The quartet touched home in 3:37.69, ahead of Vietnam (3:39.76) and Thailand (3:43.67). The victory was also redemption for Schooling and Co after a shock disqualification in the 4x100m freestyle last Saturday.
National head coach Gary Tan was full of praise for Schooling, whom he said has been a leading figure for the younger swimmers.
He said: “With what happened in the 4x100m, he really stepped up as an individual to really talk with the younger guys about how to move on from here… You can see the older guys like Zheng Wen and Jo rubbing off a very good vibe on the two boys.
“He’s been a leader, especially in these SEA Games and I know that he would want to make it extra special, he’s been great.”
While there have been reports that this could be Schooling’s last SEA Games, he hinted on Monday that he may not be hanging up his goggles and trunks just yet.
He said: “That (winning five consecutive 100m fly titles) feels great, makes you feel kind of old as well. I’m really pleased to be able to do that.
“At the end of the day, five in a row is really great, looking forward to maybe six next time I don’t know.”
Schooling, who has 29 golds at the SEA Games, could make it 30 if he competes in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay on Tuesday.
Inquirer’s special coverage of the Hanoi SEA Games 2021.
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