Singapore’s Joseph Schooling won his home country its first Olympic gold medal Friday after finishing first place in the 100m butterfly in a record time of 50.39 seconds, the BBC reports. Schooling won in spectacular fashion as he edged out his childhood idol Michael Phelps, South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Hungary’s Laszli Cseh by .75 seconds. Phelps, le Clos, and Cseh finished at second place in a remarkable three-way tie.
Phelps, who has won 22 gold medals in his Olympic career, was denied his fourth successive gold medal by Schooling, who grew up idolizing the legendary U.S. Olympian. The 31-year-old Phelps could still win his 23rd gold medal by competing in the 4x100m medley relay on Saturday.
Michael, however, said numerous times that he has no intention of competing in the Olympics again after Rio 2016.
“This is it. I’m not doing it. I swore in London I wasn’t coming back, but this is final,” he said.
Phelps, who has a newborn son Boomer with fiancée Nicole, said that he’d like to spend more time with his family.
“I’m happy,” he added.
After his historic victory, Schooling slapped the water in elation and then turned to Michael to give him a hug. Chad le Clos of South Africa also turned to Joseph to give him a pat on the back and ruffle his hair.
Joseph’s victory is already historic in itself, but what made it even more impressive is that he beat the man who is considered by many as the greatest Olympian athlete ever.
Even in defeat, Phelps looked genuinely gracious and excited for the 21-year-old gold medalist, as he spoke encouragingly to him after the medal presentation. The presentation saw Schooling standing alone on the uppermost podium while Phelps, le Clos and Cseh lined up in second place.
“Nobody is happy to lose, but I’m proud of Jo,” Phelps said at the post-race media conference.
“It’s faster than I went four years ago to win, but Jo’s tough,” he said. “Hats off to him.”
The legendary Olympian expressed his excitement over what lies ahead for the young gold medalist.
“What he’s able to achieve is up to him. I’m excited to see how much faster he goes. I think it’ll be exciting to see somebody else break 50 seconds again. I watched him swim last summer at the world championships. Ball’s in his court. As big as he wants to dream.”
Humble in victory, Joseph said that it was an honor and a great privilege to have competed alongside Michael, Chad, Laszlo – whom he described as “guys that have changed the face of this sport, guys that have won the most number of gold medals in Olympic history, a guy that will go down in our history books as the greatest of all time of any sport.”
Schooling still keeps an old photo of himself and Phelps, which was taken in 2008 at a meeting in Singapore following the Beijing Olympics. At the time, Joseph was a star-struck fanboy who had a dream. That photo, which shows Joseph as a bespectacled teenager alongside an already seasoned Phelps, has now gone viral, with memes and think pieces emphasizing the value of hard work now proliferating the web.
While Phelps provided the youngster the inspiration needed to become a great swimmer, Schooling said that it was his grand-uncle, Lloyd Valberg, a former national high jumper who was considered as Singapore’s first Olympian, who made him want to be an Olympian at a young age of 6.
When asked what Michael said to him after the race, Schooling said Phelps told him, “Good job, that was a great race.”
“I told him to go four more years and he said ‘No way’. Hopefully he changes his mind. I like racing him,” Schooling added.
[Photo by Michael Sohn/AP Photo]