The national obsession with Joseph Schooling will calm down in Singapore for a while now that the Southeast Asian Games swimming program is complete.
Schooling, the Texas-based swimming star who won nine gold medals from nine events at the SEA Games, will have a short break to relax before getting back into training in the United States to prepare for the world championships in Russia starting next month.
Fair to say, he\’s looking forward to his holiday, saying it has been an educational experience having to deal with being the face of the games in the domestic media.
"These five or six days have been really tough. The weeks before that also," he said. "I need time away from everything, time to recharge."
Schooling\’s haul helped Singapore to a national-record 23 gold medals in a SEA Games swimming meet, and captured the imagination of the host nation, where he was competing in an important international meet for the first time.
He\’ll stay in town for a few days — his 20th birthday is on Tuesday, the day of the closing ceremonies. Still, the Asian Games 100-meter butterfly champion knows where the regional competition involving 11 countries ranks in the scheme of things for a swimmer with genuine world and Olympic ambitions.
Nine gold medals, "that was my goal coming into this meet," he said. "It\’s a small steppingstone in what I\’m trying to achieve. The SEA Games, I know it\’s a big deal to Singapore … (but) we\’re on a different platform to where we were a couple of years ago. We need to stop looking at the SEA Games as a benchmark."
When he entered the water for the butterfly leg of the 4×100 medley relay on Thursday — swimming\’s last race — Singapore had a lead of 0.82 seconds. He increased that to 2.65 when he hit the wall for his changeover, setting Singapore on course for another games record of 3 minutes, 38.25 seconds.
Until then, Schooling was level on eight gold medals with 18-year-old Nguyen Thi Anh Vien of Vietnam, the star of the women\’s program. Nguyen won 10 medals, including a silver and a bronze, and although she added another title in the 200 breaststroke, she missed a podium finish in her last event — the women\’s 100 butterfly.
Singapore veteran Tao Li won her fifth gold of the games with victory in the 100 butterfly, the last of the women\’s events.
While Singapore was celebrating its swimming success, the football team crashed out of semifinal contention with a 1-0 loss to Indonesia, which survived to play for another day after Evan Dimas angled a right-foot shot into the top corner as he stepped back toward the edge of the area. Indonesia has been banned from international competition by FIFA due to government interference in its domestic administration, adding to the pressure on the young squad at the SEA Games.
Indonesia had another big win in badminton, with the men\’s team beating Lee Chong Wei\’s Malaysians 3-2 in the semifinals.
Singapore led the overall medal standings with 66 gold — a national record — and 193 in total. Vietnam was second with 57 gold, two more than Thailand. Fourth-place Malaysia had 32 gold, three more than Indonesia, and 10 more than sixth-place Philippines. Myanmar had 11 gold, and Cambodia one. Laos, Brunei, and East Timor were yet to top a podium.
Thailand collected five of the 12 finals on the third day in track and field, including both high hurdles. Tittidet Jamras won the men\’s 110 in a meet-record 13.69 seconds, and Punsoongneun Wallapa took the women\’s race.
Indonesian veteran Triyaningsih won the women\’s SEA Games 10,000 for the fifth time, and completed a distance double after her victory in the 5,000.
She finished in in 33:44.53, well clear of second-place Pham Thi Hue of Vietnam, who was running in bare feet — one of three shoeless runners in the race.
Triyaningshi won the 5,000-10,000 double in 2007, \’09 and \’11 — when she also won the marathon on home soil — and settled for a gold-silver combination in 2013.