KUALA LUMPUR: Olympic butterfly champion Joseph Schooling rounded on critics who say he’s swimming too slowly after he grabbed his fourth and fifth gold medals of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games on Thursday.
Schooling said detractors could say what they liked as he won the 100m freestyle and anchored Singapore’s 4x200m freestyle relay victory to near his target of six gold medals in Kuala Lumpur.
“They can say whatever they want,” Schooling shot back, when asked about the criticism of his performances which has been circulating online.
“My goal is to come here and help the team as best as I can, win gold medals. That’s all I care about at this meet. You can’t always set best times, it’s fine.
“It’s all about me trying to help the team as best as I can and me trying to win as many individual events as I can.”
Schooling, who won 100m butterfly bronze at last month’s world championships, just a year after stunning Michael Phelps to claim the Olympic title, hasn’t tested his personal bests this week.
In the 100m freestyle, he was pushed all the way by Vietnam’s Hoang Quy Phuoc before winning in 48.93, outside the SEA Games record he set two years ago in Singapore.
In the relay, he pulled away in the last leg to help Singapore to win by more than six seconds, but their time didn’t beat the tournament record they set in their home pool in 2015.
Malaysia, who lost Daniel Bego from their relay team because of a food poisoning outbreak which hit 16 Malaysian athletes, finished third in the event behind Vietnam.
“We do feel sorry for him and we’re pretty sure he’s disappointed too. But we can’t help it because it’s sickness, it happens to everyone,” said Malaysia’s Welson Sim.
With five full days of competition to go, Malaysia appeared to be headed for victory on the overall medals table as they soared to 63 golds late on Thursday, 30 ahead of second-placed Vietnam.
Grace Wong set a new Games record of 59.24m in the women’s hammer, and boxer Muhamad Fuad Redzuan won Malaysia’s first ever SEA Games title in the light flyweight division.
Fuad, who beat Thani Narinram of Thailand for the gold, denied suggestions he benefited from an unfair decision in his quarter-final against Filipino teenager Carlo Paalam.
“Some say I won, others say he won but for me I got the most number of points and the fight was dominated by myself and not him,” he said.
Quzandria Ambak won dressage gold — ahead of her elder brother Qabil, who took silver — and Malaysia also won titles in squash, karate, shooting and pencak silat, a martial art.
Thailand swept the men’s and women’s individual golf titles, as Thai-Japanese Kosuke Hamamoto carded 10-under-par 203 over three rounds to win by a stroke from Singapore’s Marc Ong.
In the women’s golf, also held at Kuala Lumpur’s Mines Resort, Atthaya Thitikul marched to victory by seven strokes with 14-under-par 199.