Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first gold medal of the ongoing Rio Olympics by beating multiple Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps hegemony in the 100m butterfly.
The Texas-based swimmer, a 100m butterfly bronze medalist at last year’s world championships, set a time of 51.41 seconds with boyhood idol Phelps second in the heat with a 51.60 that left him fourth overall.
The Singapore swimmer’s surprise victory is all the more remarkable for the fact that Schooling met Michael Phelps when he was just 13 in 2008. Schooling got the opportunity to meet his hero when Phelps visited Singapore as part of his preparations for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Schooling’s father used to seek Phelps’ advice on where he should send his kid for swimming training. According to NBC broadcast, Phelps had suggested boarding school Bolles in Jacksonville.
Bali-based entrepreneur Roger James-Hamilton, who has closely followed Schooling’s rise to Olympic champions, posted the story behind the meeting eight years ago on his Facebook page.
After meeting his hero as a young teenager, Joseph said: “Michael Phelps may be my idol, but I just want to make my own career.”
Phelps, who finished dead level with Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh, now says he is ready to retire from swimming.
Phelps, who cut short his participation in the IM medal ceremony to race off the pool deck and get ready for the butterfly semi-finals, touched in 51.58 seconds. The 31-year-old American had to storm home in the second length having turned in the last place at the 50m mark.
Schooling, 21, has grown up. And that could be bad news for Phelps. The two-time Olympian and long-time Phelps fan have a chance to dethrone his idol in one of Phelps’ most reliable events. Both advanced to the semifinals later Thursday. The final is Friday night.