SINGAPORE: Swim champion Joseph Schooling is feeling less pressure competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo after a “rollercoaster ride” over the past few years.
Singapore’s first-ever Olympic gold medallist will seek to defend his title in the 100m butterfly, which he won in Olympic record timing at the 2016 edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
In an interview with CNA in Tokyo on Tuesday (Jul 20), Schooling said he was looking forward to his races and aiming to be “the best version of (himself)” in the water.
“The goal is always to win, right? So, being on the podium would be nice,” he said. “I know what I can do, so at the end of the day, there’s really no expectations on my shoulders.”
The Tokyo Olympics will take place from Jul 23 to Aug 8 after being postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No medal target has been set for Team Singapore. A total of 23 athletes will represent Singapore in 12 sports – the highest number of events that Singapore has contested at the Olympics.
Just like in 2016, Schooling will be in an underdog position in the 100m butterfly. He tipped American Caeleb Dressel and Hungarian Kristof Milak as competitors who will be “hard to beat”.
“Yeah, I was Olympic champion in Rio. But a lot has happened the past four or five years, and it’s been a rollercoaster ride, it’s been up and down.”
Schooling’s fastest time this year came when he clocked 52.93s at the ISCA International Senior Cup in March, finishing behind Dressel, the world record-holder.
“I actually feel less pressure … People just look back to what happened a year ago, two years ago,” he told CNA. “You’re only as good as your last meet.”
Nonetheless, he was looking forward to his first event in Tokyo – the 100m freestyle heat on Jul 27.
“I know we still have a week out for my first race. So, trying to contain that excitement,” he told CNA.
Coach Sergio Lopez Miro said that the 26-year-old Schooling “understands himself better” than when he was younger, and he was looking forward to seeing what the athlete could do in the pool.
“The most important thing is that you can stand up that day and give yourself a chance to see how good you are,” Lopez Miro told CNA.
“When you win an Olympic medal, you lose ownership of who you are, because everybody wants you to do everything and they don’t understand that you have a bad day or you can have a bad year.”
Schooling credited his parents for being his “number one supporters”, and said they still talked every day while he was in Tokyo.
“I wouldn’t be here without them and I’ve said that time and time again, and it’s still true. So, I know they’ll be watching,” he said.
“I’m just happy that I get another shot at it. And I’m excited to race, it’s time to go.”