One of the most successful swimming coaches in Olympic history has backed Joseph Schooling to make waves at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Schooling set tongues wagging in August when won Singapore’s first medal at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia.
The 20-year-old claimed bronze in the 100 metres butterfly in an Asian record time of 50.96 seconds, just four tenths of a second behind defending champion, Olympic champion and eventual winner Chad le Clos (50.56s), and hot on the heals second-placed Laszlo Cseh (50.87s).
Frank Busch, the national team director for USA Swimming, says the 20-year-old could become the first ever Singaporean to medal at the Olympic Games if he can put in a similar performance.
“You’ve got somebody who is going to be a force in Rio. Joseph is a great talent,” Busch told Today.
“When up against (multiple Olympic gold medalists), there is no substitute for confidence. And Joseph just had some great experience to build on that confidence from Kazan.
“It would have been different if he had swum in the outside lane and then finished last. Then he would say, well, I made the final, and that is great, and I am really happy to just be here.
“So he is able to not think that he doesn’t have a chance. He was able to overcome that thinking. That was a big sign from him.”
Busch served as the US swimming team head coach for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics Games, leading the nation 59 medals in total – 24 gold, 18 silver and 17 bronze.
He has served as the team director since 2011 and a further 31 medals – 16 gold, nine silver and six bronze – were won under his stewardship at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Schooling looks set to compete in the 100m and 200m butterfly events in Brazil, and will have to race 22-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps as well Le Clos and Cseh this time around.
Busch believes it’s impossible to predict whether or not the big names will dominate as usual.
“I don’t think you can just say that this person is going to win, and nobody is going to come near,” said Busch.
“You don’t know what Schooling is going to be, and what magic is going to happen.
“The races are all going to be close. Look at the difference between first and fifth place at the 2015 World Championships. It will be the race of the Games.”