Joseph Schooling and his Singapore team came up short of the podium, finishing fourth in the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay, which wrapped up the six-day swimming competition at the Asian Games.

But the 23-year-old butterfly specialist was happy with his second Asiad experience in Jakarta.

“I think it’s a pretty good success,” said Schooling, who collected gold medals in the 50 and 100 butterfly and a pair of bronze medals in freestyle relay races, at Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Center on Friday.

“I’m happy with my performance this year. I’ve added something well, added something I wanted to do better, so that means I can go back and work harder and build towards the world championships (in Gwangju, South Korea) next year and also the Olympics.”

Schooling is a global star athlete now and established his fame at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In Brazil, he pulled off a stunning upset over Michael Phelps in the 100 butterfly final, striking the first-ever Olympic gold medal for Singapore. He set an Olympic record of 50.39 seconds in the race.

But he came to Indonesia with high motivation, not taking the Asian Games lightly.

“I mean, the Asian Games is huge. It’s super important,” Schooling said. “I’d say it’s up there with the world championships, and the Olympics a little higher. I know how important it is for my country and myself. I wanted to give them my all and the Asian Games is a good benchmark because you are two years out from the Olympics.”

Schooling added that the games “is a good indicator of where you are” and you can identify what you have to work on before the Olympics.

But Schooling actually tries to not think too far ahead. So before setting goals for the Tokyo Games, which he called “super far away,” he wants to carefully improve his skills with a one-year-at-a-time mentality.

“I see the world championships and SEA (South East Asia) Games next year,” said Schooling, a student at the University of Texas. “So each year’s the steppingstone to the Olympics. I’m not really thinking about Tokyo yet. Tokyo is in the back of my mind, but I know I have a lot of work to do before I get to that point.”

That said, he is looking forward to going to Japan, where he’s never been. However, Schooling said his father worked in Japan for two years.

“Besides sushi, which is my favorite food, all the Japanese people I’ve met here over the years, they have something in common, they are very patriotic, they love their country, they are very polite,” he said. “It’s also nice to see the culture because I can associate being an Asian. I’m looking forward to going to Japan. My friends went to Pan Pacs (Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo earlier this month) and they said Tokyo’s amazing. So I’m looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to visit before the Olympics.”

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