(Source: www.todayonline.com)

The Olympic champion wants to help out the rookies and also sees himself returning home to train more often

SINGAPORE — Joseph Schooling may be competing in fewer events at the upcoming SEA Games, but it does not mean he is taking the biennial regional meet lightly.

Rather, the 22-year-old is looking to contribute in a different way in Kuala Lumpur – by mentoring the younger members of the Singapore swimming contingent.

Nine of the squad are younger than 17 — one 13, one 14, four 15 and three 16-year-olds — and the Republic’s first and only Olympic champion aims to be there for the kids if they need advice or a listening ear. A total of 10 swimmers will be making their SEA Games debuts as well.

“We’ve got a super young team, with a lot of rookies, kids who haven’t competed at this level yet,” noted Schooling, who made his SEA Games debut in 2011, on the sidelines of the Krislite fundraiser for the Schooling Sports Academy on Friday night (Aug 4).

“On the other hand, we have a lot of senior guys like me, (Quah) Zheng Wen, Roanne (Ho), Amanda (Lim), for example… I am going to be there to help a rookie out as these events can be high pressure, some of them are young kids, 14, 15, they are younger than I was at my first SEA Games.

“I remember how crazy it was, how much pressure there was, so for example, if (Quah) Zheng Wen and I can help a young kid that looks up to us, he or she would feel a lot more at ease and probably perform better.

“It (SEA Games) is a launch-pad towards bigger meets, like the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games. That’s how it was for me, that should be the way it goes.”

But Schooling, who struck gold and broke the Games record in each of his nine events two years ago on home soil, is still determined to win all six of this events this time – three individual and three relays.

“It was definitely my decision (to take part in fewer events),” he said. “My aim is still winning, that’s always been my expectation going into meets.

“I’m going to do the best I can to win and help Singapore out… hopefully also (clock) some best times, some Games records.”

The University of Texas student has not wasted any time in getting back into the groove of things after touching down back home on Tuesday (Aug 1), having returned from a disappointing Fina world championships outing that saw him fail to win the 100-metre butterfly, which he won last year at the Olympics.

“I have never felt this motivated to go back to training this close after a meet,” he said with a tinge of determination. “I’ve no problem going back to the pool and doing work again – this drive and fire is something I haven’t felt since I was chasing my goal before the Olympics.

“Now that I’ve got beaten and pretty badly, I don’t want to feel like that anymore… All I can be accountable for is myself and I know my game plan leading up to next year, that’s all I can control and frankly that’s all I care about.”

Returning home has also given Schooling the opportunity to discuss his future plans with new Singapore swimming head coach Stephan Widmer, the highly-regarded Australian who was appointed last month.

Schooling is set to turn professional after graduating next year in March and while the plan is still to be based in Austin to train with Eddie Reeese, he believes the swimming set-up here has evolved to a level where he has no qualms returning to for longer periods.

“I just got to know Stephan a lot better and I think I can definitely see myself coming back here and training under him,” he explained.

“I think he’s a fantastic coach, I agree with his ideologies… now, coming back for a longer term wouldn’t really affect my training if I have consistent training here, especially under somebody I can trust.

“I think with Stephan, Sonya (Porter, technical director), Gary (Tan, National Training Centre head coach) and the rest of coaching staff, we have a fantastic crew (to go along with) great facilities.

“It’s my job and my supporting group’s job to manage my commitments and training (when I go pro), my coaches Eddie and Stephan will always plan (the best) and I think I’m in very capable hands.”

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