I want to be Singapore’s best-ever swimmer: Schooling

Joseph Schooling with his parents (Yahoo! photo/Daniel Teo)Joseph Schooling with his parents (Yahoo! photo/Daniel Teo)

Joseph Schooling dreams of becoming Singapore's best ever swimmer despite his disappointment at the London Olympics.

The 17-year-old, tipped to shine at the London Games, had a disappointing outing by his own standards after failing to make the mark for the semi-finals of the 200m butterfly event. This was after officials disapproved of his TYR cap and goggles minutes before the race, forcing him to scramble for gear and throwing his mental focus out the window.

Schooling eventually finished eighth in his 200m fly heat with a disappointing timing of 1:59.18, over two seconds slower than his personal best of 1:56:67.

His other event, the 100m fly, also didn't go much better after failing to make it to the semi-finals, finishing 35th out of 43 competitors with a timing of 53.63sec.

Despite the setback, the 2011 Singapore Sportsman of the Year is not allowing it to hamper his dreams -- one of which is to eclipse Ang Peng Siong and become Singapore's best-ever in the pool.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore during a recent interview at Tanah Merah Country Club, Schooling said, "It's definitely my goal is to become the best swimmer in Singapore's history.

"On the flight back he [Ang] shared with me his experience, telling me how poorly he did in his first two South East Asian (SEA) games but went on to do really well after that. He told me I'm still young and when the time comes I'll be up there," he added.

At just 17, Schooling already has an Olympic campaign, three national records and two SEA games gold medals under his belt.

But he still has a long way to go before matching Ang's achievements in the pool.

In 1982, Ang was the world's fastest swimmer in the 50m freestyle. He also won an Asian Games gold in 1982, and came home first in the 'B' final for the 100m freestyle at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The three-time Sportsman of the Year also went on to win 20 SEA games golds throughout his career.

Undaunted, Schooling is taking things one step at a time as he sets his sights on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

He said, "This has been a learning experience and I can only become stronger from that and hopefully do better in 2016. Four years is long time to prepare and I want to take things a step at a time.

"This year's Olympics is more of a learning experience for me. 2016 will be different. I will definitely be aiming for a medal."

The Florida-based and Singapore-born student also shared his thoughts on the "foreign talent" debate sparked by Singapore's China-born paddlers who scooped up two bronze medals in London.

He said, "I myself have been called foreign talent because of my last name. But I'm not against foreign talent. I'm neutral and just want to focus on myself".

"I know they might be from China but at the end of the day they are doing their best to represent our country," said Schooling.

"If not for them there won't be any medals for Singapore."

Schooling's parents were present at the London Olympic Park's Aquatic Centre to catch their son in action. And his mum Kmay Yim believes their son has done his best despite the hiccup.

She said, "We always tell him, as long as he does your best, that's all that matters. In fact, his expectations and targets are higher than ours.

"What's happened has happened. I'm sure he will learn from it and become both a stronger person and athlete," she added.