It was Aug 8, the day of the 100m butterfly final, his last race at the Fina World Championships and that was when Joseph Schooling came closest to the perfect swim he had been chasing in his career.
But the most extraordinary day of his 20 years had begun just like any other day.
Said Schooling: “I didn’t think much about the upcoming race. I just treated it like another day… it was pretty much normal for me, nothing too extraordinary.”
At around 6.13pm, wearing plain black jammers, he stepped on the pool deck at the Kazan Arena in Russia. Back in Singapore, people were draped in anticipation even though it was nearly midnight.
It had seemed that the odds were stacked heavily against Schooling.
He had been shunted out wide in Lane One because he qualified seventh overall. And his 1.84m frame was up against a strong field whose average height was 1.89m.
But back-to-the-wall suits Schooling, 20, fine. When he was younger, his coach at the Singapore Island Country Club used to make him start a race when his peers were already at the halfway mark.
It annoyed the competitor in him no end, but it meant he learnt how to fight to win.
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