RIO DE JANEIRO — The man who beat Michael Phelps recently turned 21 but could pass for 16.
He became the first athlete from Singapore ever to win an Olympic gold medal after a pre-race visit from his nation's president.
He moved to the United States when he was 13 to attend the Bolles School in Florida, swims for the University of Texas and speaks perfect English.
Joseph Schooling did not seem to believe what he'd just done Friday night—winning gold in the 100-meter butterfly in Olympic-record time and doing it against the man who inspired him to swim so fast in the first place.
"A lot of this is because of Michael," he said. "He's the reason I wanted to be a better swimmer."
Phelps' loss must have seemed like a monumental upset to viewers watching in the United States. But it was not a great shock to people inside the sport who've tracked Schooling's rapid progress. He actually beat Phelps in a 100 butterfly in June.
Phelps himself seemed almost giddy to hand his crown to a swimmer on the rise whom he obviously likes personally. At their post-race press conference, he chided reporters to direct all their questions to Schooling instead of him.
"What Joe is able to achieve is up to him," Phelps said. "I'm excited to see how much faster than he can go."
Schooling met Phelps eight years when he was still a student in Singapore. They snapped a photo together. Now, he'd beaten his hero in what Phelps said would be his final individual race.
"It's pretty crazy what happens in eight years," Schooling said.
Earlier versions of this blog said the prime minister visited Schooling. It was the president of Singapore.