Joseph Schooling out of SEA Games squad for Cambodia, faces uncertain future
Olympic champion, who is serving his NS, says he is 'not at the level' at which he holds himself to perform
SINGAPORE — Joseph Schooling, Singapore's lone Olympic champion, has been left out from the swimming squad heading to Cambodia for the SEA Games in May.
The 27-year-old - who had amassed 29 golds, three silvers and two bronzes over six SEA Games editions since 2011 - was not in the finalised list of 22 swimmers selected by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) to compete in Phnom Penh at the biennial regional sports meet from 5 to 17 May.
"After careful consideration with my team, I have decided to pull out of the SEA Games," Schooling, who is currently doing his national service with the Republic of Singapore Navy, said in a statement released on Wednesday (1 March).
"This was not an easy decision, but I am currently not at the level at which I hold myself to perform. Ultimately, my country comes first before individual accolades.
"I have decided to give my spot to teammates who have been getting themselves ready and considered for selection, while I cheer from home and focus on my Navy duties."
Hinted that 2021 SEA Games might be final one
Schooling now faces an uncertain future in his glittering swimming career - one punctuated by his monumental triumph at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He had already hinted to Yahoo News Singapore last year that the 2021 SEA Games might be his final one.
He was in the initial list of swimmers nominated for the Games, after making the qualifying mark for the men's 100m butterfly. He was also pencilled in for the 4x100m medley race.
“He has been a mainstay of the national team for quite some time, and I know that Joe believes as well that there are capable swimmers in the team who can step up to the challenge," national swimming head coach Gary Tan said.
"The team will miss his presence but we will keep moving forward.”
Among the 22 swimmers selected for the SEA Games squad are Teong Tzen Wei, Amanda Lim, Gan Ching Wee and the Quah siblings - Ting Wen, Zheng Wen and Jing Wen.
“This team has a good mix of youth and experience and we are confident of a strong showing in Cambodia, said Tan.
"It will be a busy year, with the SEA games in May, the World Championships in July and the Asian Games in September. But the swimmers have prepared well and are looking forward to priming themselves for the upcoming meets.”
Golds at Hanoi SEA Games, investigation by CNB
In last year's SEA Games in Hanoi - which was postponed from 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic - Schooling retained his gold medal in his pet 100m butterfly race, and also helped Team Singapore clinch gold in the 4x100m medley.
However, news broke in August that he was investigated by the Central Narcotics Bureau for possible offences related to the consumption of cannabis during the Hanoi SEA Games.
He was subsequently stripped by the Singapore Armed Forces of his eligibility for leave or disruption to train or compete while he is still in NS.
Sport Singapore also suspended support to him as a carded athlete under its High Performance Scheme for a period of one month, while Singapore National Olympic Council fined him $10,000 for breaching its code of conduct.
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