Joseph Schooling became the first ever Singaporean male swimmer to make an Olympic Games final on Friday morning (Singapore time) when he qualified in the 100-metre butterfly.
The 21-year-old made history by clocking a new Asian record of 50.83 seconds to finish first out of 16 competitors at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The final will take place at 9.12am on Saturday morning, Aug 13.
Schooling won his semi-final ahead of Chad Le Clos to progress as the fastest qualifier, putting in a strong final lap after coming in second at the turn.
Team-mate Quah Zheng Wen clocked 52.26s to finish last in his semi-final amidst a strong field, which was won by Hungarian Laszlo Czeh. Michael Phelps came in second.
Schooling’s time is the fastest in the world this year and rewrote his own Asian record of 50.96s, which he set in the world championships last year.
This achievement means Schooling became the first Southeast Asian swimmer in 84 years to make a final since Philippines great Teofilo Yldefonso won a bronze in the 200m breastsroke in 1932.
He is also only the third-ever Southeast Asian male to make a final, with Filipino Jikirum Adjaluddin doing so in 1932. Tao Li, who qualified for the 100m butterfly final in 2008, remains the only female to achieve the feat.
Schooling and Quah had made history earlier in the day when both qualified for the semi-finals, marking the first time Singapore has had more than one swimmer in the semi-finals of the same Olympic event. Quah finished eighth in his heat in a time of 52.26.
Only six other Southeast Asian swimmers – male and female – have ever made the semi-finals in any Olympic event: Tao, Alex Lim (Malaysia), Roosevelt Abdulgafur, Adjaluddin, Nils Christiansen and Yldefonso (all Philippines).
Schooling is swimming in his second Games, having made his debut four years ago in London. Then, he failed to make it out of the heats in both of his events, the 100m and 200m butterfly.