HANOI – The gesture that Singaporeans know and love about Joseph Schooling returned to the pool on Monday as he claimed his first gold medal at the 31st Southeast Asian Games in the 100m butterfly – as well as his fifth consecutive title in his pet event.
After schooling touched the wall in 52.22 seconds to claim the top spot at My Day Water Sports Palace, she smiled in celebration and splashed into the water.
Kuwait Zheng Wen finished second with a time of 52.7 seconds, followed by Thai Navafat Oncharoen with a time of 52.98 seconds.
Schooling and her fans were happy to see her back on the road to victory in the biennial event, her first international reunion since the Tokyo Olympics, where she failed to retain her gold medal from Rio.
The 26-year-old suffered a tough six months after the Olympics, two months after he was listed for national service, before his father Colin was diagnosed with liver cancer last November.
Regarding his race, Schooling said: “The timing was irrelevant. It was about getting your hands on the wall step by step and first. We can do a lot during the race …
“But at the end of the day, I’m glad to bring out my one and only unique event. I could do a lot more but you can swim when called. “
She added her second gold of the night in the 4x100m medal relay with Maximilian Ang, Koa Zheng Wen and Jonathan Tan.
The quartet touched home at 3: 37.69, ahead of Vietnam (3: 39.76) and Thailand (3: 43.67). The win was also a redemption for Schooling & Co after a shock disqualification in the 4x100m freestyle last Saturday.
National head coach Gary Tan was full of admiration for Schooling, whom he described as a top figure for young swimmers.
He says: “With what happened at 4x100m, he really went out of his way to talk to the young boys about how to get out of here as a person. On.
“He was a leader, especially in these SEA games and I know he wanted to make it extra special. He was great.”
Although there have been reports that this could be the last SEA game of schooling, he indicated on Monday that he is still not hanging his goggles and trunks.
He said: “It feels great to win five consecutive 100m fly titles, it makes you feel old too. I am really satisfied to be able to do it.
“At the end of the day, five in a row is really great, next time maybe I don’t know waiting for six.”
Schooling, which has 29 golds in the SEA Games, could make it 30 if it competes in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay on Tuesday.
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