“I’m just ecstatic. I don’t think it has set in yet. It’s just crazy,” a befuddled Schooling told reporters after the race.
Phelps was widely anticipated to win his 23rd Olympic gold medal in the race, adding to what had already been a victorious run in Rio. However, 21-year-old Schooling led the entire race, finishing with a time of 50.39 seconds while Phelps came in second with a time of 51.14.
A testament to just how close this race was, Lészló Cseh of Hungary and Chad le Clos of South Africa also finished in 51.14, creating a remarkable three-way tie for silver.
Here are five things to know about the 21-year-old who pulled off the greatest upset of Rio thus far.
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1. Michael Phelps was his childhood hero
Eight years ago, Schooling met his idol Michael Phelps in Singapore before Phelps competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After being bested by Schooling, the swimmer was congratulatory. “Watching Joe and what he’s done in the last two years – he’s been swimming great. My hat’s off to him!”
From boy to man. pic.twitter.com/DpOTHETxka
— Juan (@socraticjuan) August 13, 2016
2. He made history in Singapore just by qualifying
Schooling is the first-ever male Singaporean swimmer to qualify for an Olympic final.
— Benjamin Kheng (@benjaminkheng) August 13, 2016
3. He said winning a silver or bronze would be like losing
Schooling’s win Friday brought Singapore its first Olympic gold ever – and to the 21-year-old, any other medal would have felt like a loss. “I’m all about winning medals,” he told reporters in Rio, according to the BBC. “I don’t care if I break the world record but if I get silver or bronze – I still lost. It’s all about winning the gold.”
— Rebecca Lynne Tan (@STrebeccatan) August 13, 2016
4. He’s a proud Texas Longhorn
Schooling left home to train in the United States at age 14, set three U.S. high school national records ultimately found his way to the University of Texas swim team.
— Swim Fit (@Swim_Fit) August 13, 2016
5. His mom fought hard for his career
Schooling’s mom, May Schooling, is the self-professed “bad cop” of the family, according to Yahoo Sports. Schooling’s Olympic glory might never have been if not for his mother who fought her son’s way out of two years of compulsory National Service to make sure his training was not disrupted.
“I told them very clearly: I’m trying to teach my son to be loyal to this country,” she said. “But why should he be loyal to a country that doesn’t even support him when he wants to achieve swimming success for [it]?”
— Jack Board (@JackBoardCNA) August 13, 2016
Singaporean President Tony Tan was sitting poolside as Schooling punched the water in disbelief when he learned he had foiled the top three names in swimming.