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Schooling wins eighth gold

Schooling wins eighth gold

US-based swimming sensation continues great form in Singapore Games

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 11 Jun 2015, 1:29 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:52 PM

Singapore — For the world’s best swimmers, timing is everything. Not just the time it takes them to get to the other end of the pool but also the time they choose to produce their best. Joseph Schooling’s timing has been perfect during the 28th Southeast Asian Games, which are being held in his tiny homeland as part of the celebrations marking Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence.

Like any host country, Singapore desperately wanted its own bona fide star to leave an indelible mark on the Games and Schooling has done that. On Wednesday, he won two more finals at the OCBC Aquatic Centre that he has turned into a river of gold. He won the 50 metres butterfly then the 200m individual medley, taking his tally for the week to eight golds from eight events.

The 19-year-old still has one more race to go on Thursday, the medley relay, where another gold medal looks like a formality barring a disqualification or major upset. Based in the United States, Schooling rarely makes it back to his homeland but his popularity continues to soar.

Teenage girls scream his name when he walks onto the pool deck and local celebrities try to get their photo taken with him. On Wednesday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong personally presented him with one of his gold medals. Schooling’s performances have rubbed off on his team mates, who have been scooping up plenty of precious metal themselves.

Quah Zheng Wen, who has entered a mind-boggling 12 events, picked up another two medals on Wednesday to take his haul to 10, including five golds. The 18-year-old still has two races left. His sister Ting Wen won her fourth gold medal on Wednesday, in the Singaporean 4x100m freestyle relay. Her team mate Tao Li also collected a fourth gold at these Games taking her career total to a staggering 28.

With one day of swimming to go, Singapore have won 19 of the 31 gold medals. Vietnam is the next best with nine, thanks almost entirely to Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, the outstanding female swimmer at the Games. The 17-year-old won the 400m freestyle on Wednesday, going under the qualifying time for Rio, to capture her seventh gold medal, and ninth overall.

Away from the pool, the Philippines won five gold medals in boxing, replacing Thailand as the region’s top pugilists. Inspired by eight-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines won medals in each of the 10 divisions they entered, half of them gold.

The standouts were 19-year-old Eumir Felix Marcial, the 2011 world junior champion, who knocked out his hapless Singaporean opponent Jia Wei Tay with a crunching left hook, and Josie Gabuco, the 2012 women’s light flyweight world champion.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Games’ organisers (SINGSOC) intervened in a different fight, dismissing an appeal from the Philippines regarding the eligibility of Indonesian female volleyballer Aprilia Santini Manganang. The Philippines asked the organisers to verify Manganang’s gender ahead of their match and SINGSOC released a statement saying the appeal was rejected and she was free to play.

Manganang said later she was unfazed at having her gender questioned but did admit it spurred her on when the teams played against each other. Indonesia won the match easily. “I want to say thank you because you helped fire me up in the match,” she said. 

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