KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Singapore’s Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling has apologised to Malaysians after he raised hackles by promising to “teach them a thing or two” at the Southeast Asian Games.
The 22-year-old said he was “really sorry” for his unguarded comments, which made him a target for Malaysian fans. He had earlier insisted the remarks were taken out of context.
“If I offended anyone, I do apologise… that wasn’t my intention,” the 100m butterfly Olympic gold-medallist told reporters, after arriving for the regional Games in Kuala Lumpur.
“I’m really sorry for my comments and I definitely didn’t mean it that way.”
Schooling won Singapore’s first and only Olympic gold medal in 2016 in Rio, while neighbouring Malaysia is yet to produce an Olympic champion.
The Texas-based swimmer won nine gold medals at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, but he said he will contest a smaller programme of six events in Kuala Lumpur, including relays.
“I’ll do my best in all of them. I’m just going to do my best and let the outcome speak for itself. We have two days to prepare so hopefully we’ll put on a good performance in the Games,” he said.
“It’s definitely not like training for me. Every race my dad likes to say race fast and that actually holds a lot of ground. There are a lot of great swimmers in the Southeast Asian region so I gotta be the best as I can to make my country proud.”