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Rio Olympics 2016: Joseph Schooling beats idol Michael Phelps to claim gold

United States' Michael Phelps and Singapore's Joseph Schooling check their times after a men's 100-meter butterfly heat during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP
United States' Michael Phelps and Singapore's Joseph Schooling check their times after a men's 100-meter butterfly heat during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP

He was once a star-struck teenager who shyly asked for a picture with his hero. But today Singapore's Joseph Schooling has beaten his idol Michael Phelps to win his first Olympic medal in the 100m butterfly final.

Schooling's victory in the final comes after he beat Phelps in the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly event in Rio yesterday.

Schooling took out the final today in a time of 50.39 seconds, an Olympic record. Schooling bested Phelps' Olympic record mark of 50.58 seconds, set in Beijing in 2008.

Phelps claimed silver in a three-way-tie at 51.14 seconds. The event was likely Phelps' last individual race at the Olympics.

Schooling first met Phelps just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics that launched the American star as a household name.

But back then Schooling was just one of thousands of kids queuing to get a picture with the world's greatest swimmer.


Fast-forward eight years and Phelps is now well aware of who Schooling is.

The young swimmer carved out his own little bit of history yesterday by becoming the first Singaporean man to reach an Olympic swimming final.

He finished with a time of 50.83sec in the second 100m butterfly semi-final of the night - a new national record and the world's best time so far this year. In doing so, Schooling was faster than a qualifying pack that includes Phelps, who has already won four gold medals in Rio.

Phelps has 22 of those in total, including three in the 100m butterfly from the past three Games.

Schooling admits he has studied video of Phelps for years to help him improve.

But he told an ESPN documentary in 2012 that he was keen to chart his own career.

"I don't think I've ever daydreamed about Michael Phelps' career - but as far as his accomplishments go, I think everyone would love to have 14 gold medals at the Olympics, and I think over 20 golds at the world championships," he said.

"I just want to make my own career for myself. Michael Phelps may be my idol, but I just want to make my own career."

In 2011, Schooling beat Phelps' age-group (15-16 years) time over the 100 yards butterfly (short course). Beating markers laid down by his idol had long been an obsession, he said. "It's been a target of mine and I'm really happy to do that. It is a huge boost.

"Hopefully, I can get more of his records."

The next year, they raced alongside each other in the United States in what Schooling said was "a tick off on my bucket list". That was followed by a handshake.

Then at the London Olympics that year, Phelps comforted Schooling after their 200m butterfly heats.

Less than 10 minutes before the race, Schooling's equipment was deemed to not fit Olympic regulations, and the then 17-year-old clocked a poor timing.

Schooling said: "I was walking behind Phelps after my race when he looked at me and asked, 'what's wrong?'

"I told him what happened and he hugged me and said, 'you're only so young, you still have a long way to go. It's a learning experience so keep your head high and just keep moving on'."

Schooling had said after an early race with Phelps: "I know that as I get older, I'll become stronger, and I'll fare better beside him."

Yesterday, Phelps was seen giving Schooling a congratulatory tap after they faced off, side by side, in the 100m butterfly heats, which Schooling won.

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