SINGAPORE — In what could be the final SEA Games of his extraordinary career, Joseph Schooling made sure he ended it on a high note in his pet event - the men's 100m butterfly.
The 26-year-old clocked 52.22sec at the My Dinh Water Sports Palace on Monday (16 May) to retain his SEA Games gold ahead of compatriot Quah Zheng Wen, who timed 52.86sec. This is his fifth straight win in the event, and his 16th individual gold at the biennial Games - the most by any male swimmer in the Games' history.
Thailand's Navaphat Wongcharoen, who was fastest in the morning heats, clinched the bronze in 52.98sec.
"The timing was kind of irrelevant for this one. It's more about just stepping up and try(ing) to get your hand on the wall first," Schooling told reporters after his win.
"Overall I'm just really happy to get my one and only individual race out of the way. I wish I could be doing more, but you just swim the best you can when you're called upon."
Schooling had indicated that, following his participation in both the SEA Games and the recently-postponed Asian Games in Hangzhou, he is planning to take stock of his performances - and the training regimen amid his current national service needed to reach the lofty Olympic standards - before going for the Paris Olympics in 2024.
"I'm going to be 27 this year, and there are a lot of things outside the pool that I'll want to move on to after I'm done swimming," he had told Yahoo News Singapore during an interview last month.
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic gold medallist had endured a tough 2021, unable to retain his Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games and then having to deal with the death of his father Colin from illness.
However, he clocked a highly-encouraging 52.09sec in February's Singapore National Age-Group major Games qualifier event to qualify for the SEA Games and Asian Games.
Following his 100m fly win, Schooling teamed up with Quah, Maximillian Ang and Jonathan Tan to clinch the 4x100m medley relay gold for Singapore in 3min 37.69sec, ahead of Vietnam (3:39.76) and Thailand (3:43.67).
There were also two golds won by Singapore's women swimmers on Monday. Gan Ching Wee added the women's 200m freestyle gold to her 800m freestyle triumph, clocking 2:02.60 to edge out Thailand's Kamonchanok Kwanmuang (2:02.63). Another Singapore swimmer Chan Zi Yi was third with 2:03.21.
In the women's 50m breaststroke final, Letitia Sim finally won a gold medal in Hanoi, after earning a silver in the 200m individual medley and a bronze in the 200m breaststroke. The 18-year-old clocked a personal-best 31.43sec to pip Thailand's Jenjira Srisa-ard (31.63sec) and compatriot Christie Chue (32.10sec),