10 August 17 The Business Times by GODFREY ROBERT
THERE are two lessons for Joseph Schooling - one from the genuine Usain Bolt of the track, and another from mega-star nicknamed the "Usain Bolt of the pool".
Schooling, the Singapore Olympic swimming gold medallist, has probably absorbed the lessons from recent happenings in the world of sport, but a reminder is timely.
With less than two weeks to go before the start of the 29th South-east Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Singaporean fans are already raving about what Schooling can accomplish in the Malaysian capital.
The prediction is that Schooling will deliver six golds from his six events - three individual and three relays - to boost his personal Sea Games tally to 23 main podium finishes.
But as we reflect on what happened to Bolt, the Jamaican ace, last weekend, we are reminded that nothing is certain in sport, and no guarantees are given.
So confident in an aura bathed in invincibility, Bolt felt the thunderbolt from two Americans in the World Championships final in London, and had to settle for a bronze medal in the century sprint which was his prized domain for almost a decade.
Justin Gatlin endured the boos of a London crowd at the Olympic Stadium to hijack victory by two-hundredths of a second over teammate Christian Coleman, as Bolt paid the price for a slow start to finish third, three-hundredths of a second behind the surprise winner.
The extra dose of over-confidence while lapping up the pre-race lyrical waxing of the world media proved to be a setback in what the charismatic Bolt predicted would be a farewell fling into the record books.
Texas University student Schooling also had that measure of over-confidence at the recent World Swimming Championships in Budapest, raving about world records and feeling buoyant about joining the elite swimming minority of both Olympic and World champions.
From his former Bolles teammate Caeleb Dressel, Schooling can take the lesson of "better focus" and the belief that sometimes it is better to chase than being chased.
Dressel came to Budapest with reactive rhetoric and dogged determination. He achieved revenge after being beaten by Schooling in the 100 metres butterfly at the 2016 NCAA Championships with a strong mentality and a physical presence (he is an imposing 1.91 metres tall, 7cm taller than Schooling) that belonged to the likes of former greats Matt Biondi and Ian Thorpe.
When Dressel walked away from Hungary with seven gold medals, he was also tagged "the Usain Bolt of swimming" for the manner in which he submerged his distinguished rivals.
No doubt, while many media outlets painted gloom over Schooling's showing, I view his bronze medal as yet another accolade for it was a global event.
The Sea Games is a different kettle of fish, the gap in competition from the Olympics or Worlds is as wide as the Strait of Malacca.
As the days tick by to the Sea Games, Schooling, who was honoured at three recent events - the Krislite Supports Schooling Sports Academy Fund-Raising Event, the Chinese Swimming Club junior meet and an event where an Orchid plant was named after him - commits himself to off-the-pool events, the affable 22-year-old should keep his gold focus.
So deliver the six golds in KL, Schooling. And remember that SEA Games records are incidental, and they eventually disappear unlike victories. The Sea Games rivalry may seem shallow to an Olympic champion, but the enemy may be within yourself, and complacency can be a dangerous ally.
A nation counts on you, Schooling. Deliver the golds, as did Tan Thuan Heng, Pat Chan, Junie Sng, Joscelin Yeo, Ang Peng Siong and David Lim before you.