Joseph Schooling has admitted that it was a “surreal” moment when he became the first athlete from Singapore to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
Schooling won the 100m men’s butterfly final on Thursday in an Olympic record time of 50.39s, edging out his idol Michael Phelps, who finished in a tie for second with South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh.
Having accomplished something no other Singaporean or Southeast Asian swimmer has ever done, the 21-year-old admitted that he will treasure the moment for the rest of his life.
“It feels great, it kinds of feels surreal right now, it’s crazy,” he told reporters. “I really can’t describe how this moment feels. All the adrenaline is running through my veins right now. It’s a dream come true.”
Schooling added that he was grateful to have had the opportunity to race against Phelps, who has won 28 medals in his illustrious Olympics career, and a host of other high-profile swimmers.
“I’m really honoured and privileged to swim alongside some of these great names, people who changed the face of our sport,” he said. “I can’t really tell you how grateful I am to have this chance to swim in an Olympic final and to represent our country. I’m just ecstatic. I need it to sink in.”
The University of Texas student led the race from start to finish, but admitted that he had doubts about his chances of winning prior to the event.
“I went for it and I didn’t look back,” he said. “I had some doubts. Everyone has doubts. It’s all about how you turn those doubts into positive moments. And I’m really glad that I could do that.”