Joseph Schooling has been a fan of Michael Phelps since he was a kid and has never been shy of expressing his admiration for the American.
But on Friday night in Rio, it was the 22-times gold medalist who was the sounding like a fan, talking of his admiration for the Singaporean.
Phelps congratulating TeamSG swimmer Joseph Schooling after the finals of the 100m Butterfly. Photo: Sport Singapore
“Watching Joe, I have seen him trim yards, I watched him swim last summer at World Championships. It is up to him where he wants to take it - the ball is in his court,” said Phelps, after Schooling’s historic triumph in the 100m Fly.
Phelps, who has won the 100m Fly in the last three Olympics, has no doubt that the 21-year-old can now go on to be a huge star in the sport.
“As big as he wants to dream, as hard as he wants to work to be able to do whatever is in his head. It will be really fun.”
“I am excited to see just how much faster he goes, it will be pretty cool to see somebody else break 50 (seconds),” he said.
Schooling said he had asked Phelps to reconsider his retirement but the American laughed off the suggestion. “This is it, this really is it,” he said, saying that he was happy with the way he had closed out his remarkable career.
But even if Phelps has raced his last individual Olympic contest, Schooling was still quick to express his admiration for the Baltimore-born swimmer, with whom he had famously posed for in a photograph, taken by his mother May, on a Phelps trip to Singapore in 2008.
“As a kid I wanted to be like him. It’s crazy to think of what happens in eight years,” Schooling said.
“A lot of this is because of Michael. He’s the reason I wanted to be a better swimmer.”
Looking at that photograph of the slight, 13-year-old Schooling next to Phelps, May Schooling said that Joseph already had the determination at that age to make the sacrifices needed to reach the highest levels.
“Joseph doesn’t like losing,” she said with a grin, “Joseph really doesn’t like losing.”
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