When Joseph Schooling famously touched home in the pool at Rio 2016 last weekend, he did much more than just to win an Olympics gold medal for the 100m Butterfly.
To Singaporeans back home and abroad who were watching his every manoeuvre with breathless anticipation, it was an unprecedented moment of joy, exhilaration and most strikingly, a sense of fierce pride that a Singaporean athlete has finally made history in such a remarkable way.
With Schooling fever taking over the island in the days since, The Pride speaks to supporters at the swimmer’s victory parade to find out what his feat means to them and how it has changed their perspectives.
“We woke up early to catch the race and we were very excited when he won. My kids were cheering away. I thought it’s good to come here as it gives them a sense of what sports is about, the spirit and all. I think what’s really inspiring is the hard work that the Schooling family put in, and these are the values I hope my boys will have as well. I hope that the education system here will change so that it encompasses a more holistic education where sports isn’t seen as secondary to academic pursuit.”
– Karen Chow, 42, homemaker
Mdm Chow specially brought her sons Ryan (11) and Joshua (7) to the victory parade, hoping it lends inspiration to them as young aspiring athletes themselves.
“I watched the race live with my wife and daughter, and we were shouting and screaming together. My daughter is 12 years old, and she likes sports. For her, it serves as an inspiration for a young Singaporean that if you dream big, you can make it. There’s definitely a positive inspiration for the younger generation. The value that Joseph Schooling embodies is that academic success doesn’t define you, and Singaporeans are free to pursue their interests. He went off the beaten path and showed that if you pursue it even without certainty, you should go for it if you’re passionate about it. I always tell my daughter, it’s not always about money and status, it’s about being happy with what you’re doing.” – Gary Liau, 46, works in sales
Asked if he would support his daughter if she expressed a wish to become an Olympics athlete, Mr Liau joked that he would support her as far as his wallet enabled him to.
“I was in Korea hiking a mountain so I didn’t get to catch the race live. My mum sent me a Whatsapp video of the race and she was screaming in the video so I could really feel the emotions from home. I feel that his achievement encouraged a lot of the older generation too, because they’ve been waiting such a long time for this gold medal. He shows that even if you may not be supported, as long as you believe in yourself and you persevere, everything will work out.” – Goh Zhu Le, 22, student
“There are many younger talents around, and with his achievement, they will feel inspired and dream big. His determination, courage and resilience – throughout the tough times, he didn’t give up. Now I will think that things that used to be impossible, can actually be possible.” – Shermin Liew, 20, student
“We were the only two people around screaming and shouting during the race. It has definitely inspired the younger generation. A lot of education has to come from adults too, and what he has done has refreshed our memories that once upon a time, we believed in ambition. It’s not spoken of so often these days, but he’s reminded us that from young, we can look at our ambition and work towards it.” – Elvin Neo, 37, financial consultant
Asked why he wanted to be like Joseph Schooling, Mr Neo’s 6-year old son Elio replied, “So I can swim fast and win a gold medal.”
Mr Neo’s family were attending an event at Elio’s school during Schooling’s race, and made sure to watch the programme live by streaming it on mobile.
“My daughter loved watching Joseph Schooling win and she’s been very excited about coming here to see him. She wanted to watch the race over and over again, and now thinks that if you have a coach, you’re an Olympic swimmer so she’s been telling everyone she has a coach. I hope I can always support her dreams whatever they may be. I think Joseph’s a great role model, he’s so positive and he’s gotten over so many hurdles to get to where he is. Whether it’s in swimming or any other sport, he’s a great role model for being persistent and persevering.” – Shehara Viswanathan, a telco employee
Mdm Viswanathan took the day off to bring her 3-year old daughter to catch the victory parade.
“I was supposed to be at work on the day of the race, but I watched it before going to the office. Joseph showed us that the bottomline is if you work hard enough, dreams do come true. He’s so down-to-earth and grounded. You can see that he’s quite tired but he’s still smiling and taking photos with his supporters.” – Dyan Kusuma Eka Putri, 36, accountant
Miss Putri has been a volunteer with SportSG since 2013 and was helping out as an event photographer at the victory parade.
In a moment of magic, Joseph Schooling’s golden turn has dared a young nation to dream, and dream big. Keep that fire in our bellies burning, and who’s to say what else we can achieve?