A stunning performance from Joseph Schooling saw him become Singapore’s first ever Olympic champion as he struck gold in the 100-metre butterfly.
The 21-year-old blitzed the rest of the field in the final on Saturday morning, setting a new Olympic record of 50.39 seconds en route to touching the wall first.
No one else went below 51s, with second place being shared in a remarkable three-way tie between Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Czeh. It is the first event that Phlelps, the defending champion and Schooling’s childhood idol, has lost at this Games.
Schooling, Singapore’s first male Olympic swimming finalist and the shortest of the eight competitors, led from start to finish in a sensational swim to bag the Republic’s first-ever Olympic swimming medal.
His feat at the Olympic Aquatic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ended a wait that had begun since Neo Chee Kwok became the first swimmer to represent Singapore at an Olympics in the 1952 Helsinki Games.
It was also only Singapore’s fifth ever Olympic medal and the third individual one, coming after Tan Howe Liang’s weightlifting silver in 1960 and paddler Feng Tianwei’s bronze in 2012.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took to Facebook to congratulate the history-maker.
“It is an incredible feat, to compete among the world’s best, stay focussed, and emerge victorious,” he said. “Congrats once again to Joseph, you made us very proud today."
Schooling, who already had ambitions to make the Olympics at the age of six, is the first Southeast Asian male to win a medal since Philippines’ Teofilo Yldefonso won bronze in 1932 in the 200m breaststroke.
It is the third-ever medal and best finish by a Southeast Asian swimmer, with Yldefonso also having won bronze in 1928. Filipino Jikirum Adjaluddin and Singapore’s Tao Li are the only others to have qualified for a final.
Schooling’s medal is the first won by Singapore at the these Games, as he concludes his swimming campaign on an unprecedented high.