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Asian Games 2018

Asian Games: Singapore’s Joseph Schooling breaks China-Japan stranglehold – looks forward to returning home from US

The Olympic champion retains his Asian Games gold in the men’s 100 metres butterfly in a Games record of 51.04 seconds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 10:18pm

Singapore’s Olympic champion Joseph Schooling on Wednesday became the first swimmer to break the China-Japan duopoly at the Asian Games in Jakarta when he stormed to victory in his pet event, the men’s 100 metres butterfly.

The 23-year-old Schooling swam a Games record 51.04 seconds at the Jakarta Aquatic Centre to score a convincing victory over China’s Li Zhuhao, who clocked 51.46 and Japan’s Yuki Kobori (51.77).

“It’s all about standing up for your country and yourself and trying to get your hand on the wall first, I’m happy,” said Schooling.

“I had some jitters before, but that’s good, it shows I’m taking nothing for granted. The result was good, I’m happy overall. Every gold is special, it has its own story.”

Either China or Japan had won each of the 21 events before Schooling, the Rio Olympic champion in 2016 for the 100 fly, dived into the pool to give Singapore their first gold of the Games.

Spurred on by a vocal group of Singapore fans in the stands, Schooling led from the start and never looked like he would be beaten as he turned for home.

It was Schooling’s second Asian Games gold medal having won the same event at Incheon four years ago.

Schooling also talked about the challenge of going back to Singapore after finishing his economics degree at the University of Texas, having developed into a world-class swimmer since he went there since 2009.

A marketing dream, he is set up for life with sponsors forming a queue to sign him but he also suffers the price of fame.

Schooling may be a big shark in world swimming but when he returns he will be living his life in a goldfish bowl where just going out to dinner becomes complicated.

“It takes some getting used to but at the end of the day if you focus on what you’re doing and you don’t care about outside distractions then it’s doable,” he told AFP.

“It’s an adjustment but I like being in that position and I don’t see it as a burden at all.”

When Schooling visited home immediately after his breakthrough win in Rio, thousands of people turned out to cheer him as he was paraded around the streets in an open-top bus.

Wherever he goes, he gets mobbed by fans asking for autographs and photographs.

“It’s everywhere but it shows that they support you and they’re excited to see you and so you can’t complain,” said Schooling. “You can never brush aside your fans, you’ve always got to reciprocate so I’m completely fine with it.”

Schooling later swam the second leg of the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay to help his country to third place and his third medal of the competition (one gold and two bronze). Just like in the men’s 4x200m bronze, Schooling swam a key second leg to strengthen his country’s position in third place.

Japan won the race in a Games record 3:12.68 with China second in 3:13.29 with Singapore clocking 3:17.22, with swimming superstar Sun Yang in the ine-up for China.

Sun swam third but was unable to prevent Japan from claiming the gold. He wasn’t unti Wednesday if he would be in the 4x100 team and their second place gives him his fifth medal in Jakarta – three gold and two silvers.