SINGAPORE swim star Joseph Schooling – one of the biggest names competing at this month’s Southeastern Asian (SEA) Games – has said comments he made about hosts Malaysia were “taken out of context”.
The 22-year-old, fresh from a relatively disappointing World Aquatics Championship in Budapest where he won one bronze medal, made some comments that irked Malaysian netizens.
Schooling, the Olympic 100m butterfly champion last year, appeared to suggest he was looking forward to teaching Malaysia “a thing or two” at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore hosted the SEA Games in 2015 and won 42 swimming medals (23 gold), compared with Malaysia’s 11 overall medals in the pool (three gold).
Schooling himself won nine gold medals last time and is looking to add his tally at Malaysia’s National Aquatic Centre between August 21-26.
On Tuesday, he explained his earlier comments, and clarified that he was looking forward to helping some of his younger and more inexperienced team-mates make big strides in Kuala Lumpur.
His initial comment was: “We have a chance to do something special at the SEA Games; 2015 was something special for us, I think it will be nice to go to Malaysia’s backyard and teach them a thing or two.”
Responding to criticism of his comments today, Schooling said: “I think it was taken out of context.
“I was speaking about how we have a younger team, and I threw in Malaysia somehow – must’ve been the 17 hours of jet lag – and then I said I can’t wait to go into their backyard and teach them a lesson or two.
“Which made it sound like I was criticising Malaysia, I was actually talking about our younger kids going there and teaching (our) rookies a thing or two about the launchpad that we have in the SEA Games to bigger and better meets in the future.”
Schooling plans to compete in six events this time, including the event in which he has previously targeted Michael Phelps’ world record, the 100m butterfly.