Singapore’s Olympic champion Joseph Schooling did not make the cut to qualify for the semi-finals of the men’s 50 butterfly at the Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea on Sunday (21 July).

The 24-year-old swimmer managed to only clock 23.73 seconds to finish seventh in his heat and 20th overall.

United States swimmer Caeleb Dressel and Ukraine’s Andrii Govorov were placed top in the top-16 field with their time of 22.84 sec.

Schooling’s latest performance is nothing compared to what he achieved at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, two years ago when he broke the national record twice – 23.05sec in the heats and 22.93sec (also an Asian record) in the semi-final. He took home the fifth spot in the final in 22.95sec.

“I was happy with parts of my execution, but have also identified areas I need to work on. There are some fast times in the pool today and it sets the stage for the World Swimming Championships. Everyone will have to lift their game to make the most out their races at this meet,” said Schooling, who took home the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics for 100m butterfly.

As for the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, Schooling along with Quah Zheng Wen, Jonathan Tan and Darren Chua also failed to make the final as they finished 18th overall. However, they managed to set a national record of 3min 16.66sec.

Previously, the team of Schooling, Quah, Chua and Darren Lim finished at 3:17.22 at the 2018 Asian Games.

“I’m really pleased to set the national record with Zeng Wen, Jonathan and Darren in the 4x100m freestyle relay. We spur each other on and we must continue to tap on this momentum for the upcoming relays and our individual races,” Schooling noted.

However, the swimmer will take part in the 100m butterfly on Friday (heats and semi-finals) and likely the final on Saturday, as he attempts to improve on his join-bronze showing (50.83sec) two years ago.

Over to the female’s team, the women’s 4x100m free relay team also did not qualify for the final as they were placed 17th overall. But the team, which consisted of sisters Quah Ting Wen and Quah Jing Wen, Cherlyn Yeoh and Christie Chue, also managed to smash the previous national records of 3:44:21 with their time of 3:43:11.

None of Singapore’s swimmers made it to the semi-finals or finals of their events yesterday.

“It was fairly rough morning today, most of the swimmers are in good condition, and we saw many of the young ones exposed to the word stage today. There were some very solid performances today, the two relays were national records on a bigger stage, but it was not easy,” said national head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer.

He added, “It’s challenging but that’s what these meets are about. We have to get used to this pressure, this environment, the highest standard there is. It is a good reality check for us as a nation. We still have to close the gap even more.”

Despite Schooling’s failure to be part of the semi-finals at this year’s Fina World Championships, netizens continued to show their support towards the Olympic champion. They gave him words of encouragement and said that they’re still proud of him no matter what as that he gave Singapore the first gold medal in the Olympics.

Writing their comments on ST’s Facebook page, some online users even slammed critics and naysayers who insulted and condemned Schooling for his latest’s performance.