RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Joseph Schooling won the men's 100 metres butterfly final on Friday to secure Singapore's first Olympic gold medal and deny Michael Phelps a 23rd in the last individual race of the American's extraordinary career.
Phelps, the defending champion and world record holder who is heading into retirement -- again -- after Rio, finished second in a three-way dead heat with two of his greatest rivals -- South Africa's Chad Le Clos and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh.
Astonishingly, all three touched out in 51.14 seconds, behind Schooling's Olympic record 50.39 in the second dead-heat in a final in two days.
"I'm just ecstatic. I don't think it has set in yet. It's just crazy," said Schooling.
Straight after his historic golden feat, Schooling told Singapore media: "This swim wasn't for me. It's for my country.
"Some people believe that Singapore has a lot of talent. I believe that. It doesn't matter where you're from really. I hope this opens new doors for sports in our country and I hope I've set a precedent for the young in our country.
"It's been a hard road, I've done something that no one in our country has done before. I've received a lot of support and that's phenomenal, that's great. I can't really describe what that means.
"But it's been a tough road, I'm not going to lie, the first guy through the wall is always bloody. I had to take that blow.
"I'm thankful and I'm blessed that I have the ability to accomplish this. This moment is not about me, it's really for my country, it's all about my coaches, my family, my friends who believed from when I was a six-year-old kid, that I could do it."
In Singapore, cheers broke out across housing estates and social media erupted in celebration as Schooling won in Brazil."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan, who was in Rio to cheer Team Singapore, led an outpouring of congratulations for Schooling."
"It is an incredible feat, to compete among the world's best, stay focused, and emerge victorious," Mr Lee said in a Facebook post."
Schooling will receive S$1 million for his gold medal as part of a programme aimed at encouraging studious Singaporeans to excel in sport."
"Schooling winning shows that even homegrown athletes can win an Olympic medal and I think it's a good example for our youth that sporting greatness is possible," said real estate agent Michael Tan, 35, who cheered on Schooling at a coffee shop in a residential estate.
"It's amazing that Singapore finally has a gold medal at the Olympics, I don't think anyone thought this was possible," Madeleine Lim, 62, told AFP."
Dreams Do Come True
It was back in 2008, a 13-year-old teenager Joseph Schooling got to meet his hero, one of the all-time greatest Olympians, Michael Phelps, who had visited Singapore before the start of the Beijing Olympics. Eight years later, Schooling, now 21, creates history by beating Phelps to bag the gold in the 100m Butterfly finals. The specialty of the occasion is double great as this is for the first time a Singaporean wins an Olympic gold.
It was a dream come true for Schooling when he got an opportunity to swim in the same race with Phelps at London Olympics 2012. That was the year Joseph first qualified for the Olympics in London, but then disaster struck when he was told his goggles weren’t Olympics standard just before the race. He rushed to get replacements, but ended up getting a poor time in his heats and didn’t get through to the semi-finals.
"Somebody (His Name's Josesph Schooling) Finally Beats Michael Phelps" blared the headline in the New York Times. What a journey it has been for Schooling, who first met Phelps in 2008 as a 13-year-old teenager and now, eight years on, has beaten his childhood idol on the biggest of stages in Rio de Janerio. http://str.sg/4qJ6
He pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Rio, interrupting the 31-year-old Phelps' quest for what would have been his fifth gold in Brazil and 23rd Olympic gold of his career.
Schooling's father Colin, who hosted a viewing party at his home in Singapore, wept when his son won.
"If I cry in front of all of you all, it's because I have nothing to be ashamed of," he told reporters.
"My love for my son is nothing I can describe to you all."
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