Joseph's mindset gives Lopez confidence
Lopez backs former protege to break limits because of his winning mindset
It came across as assured confidence more than brazen cockiness, but the statement was audacious nonetheless.
Joseph Schooling believes that he will come back from Rio de Janeiro with an Olympic medal and, if he swims well, the likes of Chad le Clos, Laszlo Cseh, and even swim legend Michael Phelps will be chasing him instead.
If Schooling pulls it off, he will be only the third Singaporean - after weightlifter Tan Howe Liang (silver, 1960) and paddler Feng Tianwei (bronze, 2012) - to win an individual Olympic medal.
Asked if Schooling's confidence was well-founded, his former mentor Sergio Lopez is not even ruling out a historic Olympic gold for the 20-year-old.
"I believe that Joseph is in the top three in the world, you don't need to ask me if I buy into his confidence," said the Spaniard, seemingly surprised at the question after Schooling won bronze in the 100m butterfly at the World Championships last year - the first time a Singaporean stood on the podium at the event.
"He's in the right mind-frame, he proved that last year and, with the work he's putting in, he can be in the top two.
"Yes, I buy into his confidence.
"At that level, if he has the right mindset, and everything works well on the day, he can even strike gold. It would be amazing, but why is that not possible?
"You don't have to be cocky, but you have to be tough at the Olympics or any competition for that matter, you have to be fearless."
"I'm already proud of Joseph, he doesn't need to win an Olympic medal for me to be proud of him.
"I may cry if he wins, but I almost cried many times here when the kids here achieve things in the pool," he said, waving his finger around the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Lopez was speaking on the final day of the Singapura Finance 47th Singapore National Age-Group (Snag) Swimming Championships last night.
He has much to be proud of - a total of 10 Singaporeans made the Olympic "B" cut, while two - Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen - have already earned automatic spots by meeting the "A" times.
A record eight swimmers represented the Republic at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, while five swimmers went to the last Games in London in 2012.
This week, two national records fell, along with three junior ones, as Lopez drew positives from several positive performances.
"I can't say that I'm happy about everything, there are many bitter sweet things, but this was a good meet, with many good things besides the Olympic cuts," he said.
From dengue to a collapsed lung, diarrhoea and fever, several swimmers saw their progress derailed by illnesses in recent months, but Lopez was pleased with their attitude.
While Lopez was heartened by fearless performances from several youngsters such as Glen Lim - who broke two Under-14 records in the 1,500m and 400m freestyle - Quah Jing Wen, Hoong En Qi and Jonathan Tan, he was most impressed with Quah Ting Wen.
"She is probably the best swimmer I've ever coached," said Lopez, who has guided Schooling, and American swimmers Ariana Kukors and Ryan Murphy.
The oldest of the three Quah siblings, Ting Wen, 23, recorded what Lopez insisted were great times in all her six events at the Snag, including bettering her own national record in the 100m freestyle by 0.05 seconds with a time of 55.52sec.
"She has talent, attitude, and even the way she respects people. She's a great example for the younger ones," said Lopez, who hopes that Ting Wen will earn the nod to compete with the world's best swimmers, alongside Schooling in Rio.