CAPAS, Philippines – Singapore swimming star Joseph Schooling achieved what he set out to do in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and nailed an Olympic berth in the men's 100m butterfly.
"I swam for myself, for the people around me and for the people who supported me," said Schooling, who shocked 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps in Rio 2016.
"I think the longer you swim, the more exposed you get, the more you realize that the people around you and the people closest to you are the most important thing and you can’t let anyone else outside that circle dictate how you think or feel."
Schooling made the Tokyo 2020 Olympics A-cut of 51.96 seconds by recording a 51.84 clocking while also clinching his first individual SEA Games gold in the Philippines' hosting of the 30th edition.
"So this is for everyone who supports me and my family, but as far as proving other people, I’ve got nothing to prove. I’m proving to myself. That’s it," said Schooling, Singapore's first Olympic gold medalist, who had initially struggled in his bid to return to the quadrennial meet. (READ: Joseph Schooling targets Olympics return in SEA Games 2019)
One of Schooling's biggest supporters is his Filipina nanny Yolanda Pascual. He said he's sure that the Cagayan native, whom he calls Aunt Yolly and refers to as a “second mom," was cheering for him in front of the TV screen in Singapore.
"I wish she could be here today. I know that she’s watching on TV. But I just step up and feel like I’m racing at home," he said. "It means a lot to me and having these guys supporting me, be behind me, means even more."
"So like I said, I’m very happy with today, with how today went, we have a lot of work to do, but at the same time, just live in the moment and enjoy the moment for now," added Schooling.
Singapore's most decorated swimmer so far in the 2019 SEA Games, Quah Zheng Wen, also made the Olympic cut when he came in a close second to Schooling with a time of 51.87s, while Vietnam's Nguyen Paul Le settled for the bronze.
Both Quah and Schooling will be off to renew their friendly rivalry in Tokyo.
"We’re coming to Tokyo, we’re going to see you guys! More sushi for us! I’m very excited," exclaimed Schooling. – Rappler.com