Joe Schooling Aims To Convert ‘Fat Chance’ To ‘Fighting Chance’ For Tokyo 2020 Defence

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Joe Schooling - Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

The South East Asian Games, which concluded in the Philippines today after six days of racing, is not the best barometer of how Joe Schooling may fare come the defence of the Olympic 100m butterfly crown in Tokyo next July.

Even so, two silver linings and a near miss in tight races with Singapore teammates behind him this past week, the 24-year-old emerged from battle at the New Clark City Aquatics Center to say that he was “on the heavy side”, 5kg over his Rio 2016 weight.

Schooling is now consulting his nutritionist to find the alchemy of converting “fat chance” of keeping his Olympic crown to “fighting chance” come the hour in Japan.

Whatever happens, Schooling’s very arrival back at the Games would write a new line in his country’s sporting history. Victory in the 100m butterfly at Rio 2016 made him Singapore’s first Olympic champion in any sport. In Tokyo, he will therefore be the first to defend the ultimate title.

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Joe Schooling with Texas mates collecting more NCAA honours in 2018 – Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Schooling, who excelled for Texas in NCAA action during his college career in the United States, intends to do more than just show up. After losing the 100m freestyle crown yesterday, he told Dilenjit Singh of The New Paper:

“I know I’m definitely on the heavy side coming into this meet. After (the World Championships in July), I felt that (at) 78kg-79kg, I had no power, I was weak. So I tried to gain a couple more kilos… like in 2017, but I think now is a good litmus test to see that 79kg, 78kg, or even 80kg lean is where I need to be. After this, (I’m) definitely going to chat with Rico (sports nutritionist Richard Swinbourne), and we’ll fix this. Looking forward to it, actually.”

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Joe Schooling – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Back in Rio, he was 1.84m tall and weighed in at 74kg. Going into the SE Asian Games, Singapore’s national training centre head coach Gary Tan told national media:

“There is some recognition of things that he [Schooling] needs to change in the lifestyle part of it, especially getting a bit more trim and getting him to work towards getting fitter as well.”

Schooling hung on to pride with gold in the 100m butterfly by just 0.03sec, in 51.84, over Singapore teammate teammate Wen Quah Zheng. In the 50 ‘fly, it was silver, teammate Wei Teong Tzen getting the 23.55 to 23.61 better of him. Then, in the 100m freestyle, teammate Darren Chua Yi Shou got his fingertip to the wall in 49.59, 0.05sec ahead of Schooling.

There were also three relays golds for Schooling with teammates, the last one landed with Singapore’s victory in the curtain’s closing 4x100m medley today, for a tally of four gold and two silver medals.

Before the Games in the Philippines, Schooling had not lost a race at the biennial meet since 2011. Schooling told reporters: “I got a lot of work to do, things to sort out.”

He did not respond directly to Tan’s suggestion that “the lifestyle part of it” had to change. “I’m here to talk about swimming. Nothing outside the pool,” said Schooling.

On his second silver of the week, he noted: “No one likes to lose, that’s why we do this. As long as you give it your all, I can’t be too disappointed in the effort. I’m disappointed in the result, but this is a good reality check.

“We got to get better every single day, I think we’ve been missing that. After this meet, it’s a good seven months to prepare for what I need to do (at Tokyo 2020).”

Amanda Lim PB Ends Decade Of Stagnation, Decade Of Wins

Schooling’s Singapore teammate Amanda Lim ended a decade of stagnation on the clock and of Games dominance in the 50m free with a sixth consecutive SEA Games crown in the dash.

The 26-year-old first claimed the title at the 2009 Games in Vientiane. At the weekend, she clocked 25.06 to not only celebrate victory but her first personal best in the dash since clocking 25.38 10 years ago. Lim told The New Paper:

“My previous best was 25.3 and I haven’t done a PB in like 10 years. I’m really happy with 25.06. To do it again, to bring it back to Singapore for the sixth consecutive time, I’m speechless. The SEA Games is always something pretty special to me. Made my first team when I was 14 years old, and here I am standing at 26 and still going for it.”

She explained the why with these words: “I guess it’s just the passion for racing… Family’s in the stands, coming all the way from Singapore and I have family and relatives from back home watching on TV.”

 

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