THE most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, was left stunned yesterday when 21-year-old Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling outswam him in the men’s 100m butterfly race, clinching his home country’s first ever Olympic gold medal.
Schooling shattered the Olympic record when he won the race in 50.39 seconds, with Phelps coming in second on 51.14 seconds – the latter shared the silver medal with South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh.
In 2014, Schooling also became the first Singaporean to win a swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games, taking home silver in the 100m butterfly.
He told reporters after his win in Rio: “I’m just ecstatic. I need it to sink in. It feels great – it kind of feels surreal right now, it’s crazy.
“I really can’t describe how this moment feels. All the adrenaline is running through my veins right now. It’s a dream come true.”
Schooling met Phelps in 2008, just before Phelps went on to win eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing. He told the New York Times that as a child, he aspired to be like Phelps, and credited the long-time Olympian as “the reason I wanted to be a better swimmer”.
Joseph Schooling qualified with the top time for 100m butterfly final, will race vs Phelps, who he met as a child pic.twitter.com/gfivuaE00N
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 12, 2016
In an AFP report, published by Yahoo! News, Phelps was quoted saying: “Joe (Schooling) is tough. He had a great race last year and has had a really great last two years so hats off to him. He swam a great race.”
Many Singaporeans have expressed their pride and elation at Schooling’s win, which marks the country’s first Olympic gold medal. Schooling has also become the first Southeast Asian male swimmer to score the gold.
— ㅇㅈㅇ (@joyfulstan) August 13, 2016
My new idol is Joseph Schooling. Need to take swimming lessons rn bye
— Juno (@junoExcalibur) August 13, 2016
Singapore’s chef de mission Low Teo Ping told Channel News Asia that most people were expecting Phelps to score his 23rd gold medal at the race, but “here we have this boy from Singapore who really disappointed them, and we are all ecstatic”.