Olympic champion Joseph Schooling said he was searching for inspiration to get his career back on track as he swam to Southeast Asian Games victory in the 100m butterfly on Wednesday.
The Singaporean, who won the event at last year’s Olympics but dropped down to bronze at the world championships in July, said he needed a “different mindset” to chart his path forward.
Schooling won in 51.38sec, a new Games record but well outside his Asian mark of 50.39 from the Rio Olympics, when he stunned his idol Michael Phelps.
Asked whether he had shaken off the complacency that he blamed for his disappointing showing at the Budapest worlds, Schooling laughed and shook his head.
“It’s something that I’m going to have to go back and reassess and head into the new year with a different mindset,” he said.
“Right now I’m here to support my country, to support my team, and I’m not really too worried about what’s going to happen next year.
“I feel like I can do a lot better and this is a good test of my focus and how I can step up, not only for myself but for my team.”
Schooling, blowing hard after his race, said he was feeling the pace halfway through his meet, with three gold medals in the bag. After winning nine titles at the 2015 SEA Games, he is targeting six in Kuala Lumpur.
Longer-term, Schooling is sizing up next year’s Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast and the Asian Games in Jakarta, with the 2020 Olympics still lingering over the horizon.
“Coming into this meet it wasn’t really all about times, it was about the effort that I can give and mentoring the young kids and just being a good role model for them,” he said.
“So I’m pleased with the time, it’s not the best time but I’m happy with the effort that I gave.”
Schooling is spearheading a strong meet for Singapore, which Quah Ting Wen continued when she won the women’s 100m freestyle in a tournament-record 55.74, and then added gold in the 50m butterfly.
Malaysia’s Welson Sim won the men’s 200m freestyle in 1:47.79, another new Games mark, adding to the hosts’ table-topping gold-medal haul which stood at 40 after Tuesday’s events.
Earlier on a busy day four, gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi — criticised by some Malaysians for wearing a “revealing” leotard when she competed in 2015 — won floor exercise gold.
Malaysia’s Jackie Wong hurled a Games-record 65.90m to win the men’s hammer, and the hosts also picked up victory in women’s trio bowling.