13 August 2016 marks the day that Singapore is put on the charts once again - this time ranked Number #1 in the Rio Olympics, by swimmer Joseph Issac Schooling. He came in first in the Men's Butterfly 100m race, setting the records at a mere 50:39 seconds, snagging away the Gold Medal from the supposed arms of his idol Michael Phelps - he literally flew to his spot like a butterfly!
His name is all over news portals and social media platforms currently, replacing the tiresome updates on Pokemon Go, which have unfortunately swamped the media arenas like a plaque. I welcome the refreshing change, and I am very happy for Joseph Issac Schooling, Singapore's very own talent, taking our flag straight to the top and bringing our National Anthem to broadcast worldwide. It was truly a "Majulah Singapura" moment - a wonderful birthday present for Singapore's 51st Birthday.
The Race and The Win
Having met his idol Michael Phelps at the tender age of 13, the national sports star has already made up his mind to obtain proper training and develop in this field. Of course, the determination might have also been speared since the even younger age of 6, when he learned of his granduncle Lloyd Valberg being Singapore's first Olympian in the 1940s as a national High-Jumper.
So off to The Bolles School in Florida he went, first to train under Coach Sergio Lopez, and then Coach Eddie Reese at University of Texas. Hard work and sweat must have been put into the training, and it helped that he was training away from home and the constant celebrity-hood he would receive here back in his homeland, which might be distractions for the young athelete.
Despite having won many medals in various competitions before, such as Gold in Incheon's Asia Games 2014, bagging all 9 gold at 28th SEA Games, and scoring 1st at the 16th FINA's World Championship, the very recent win at Rio Olympics 2016 has set new grounds for Singapore and Joseph himself.
The surreality of having won would have taken a while to sink in, amidst all the cheering, clapping and congratulations he was receiving left, right and centre. It would be the kind of feeling where one feels on a high, envisioning their own names on various charts and channels, and then the eagerness to want to break the news to their supportive family, coaches and friends.
What Does It Mean for Joseph Schooling
- Having attained such an honour for Singapore would only mean more hard work and training in future, so that he can bring home more awards for the country
- Being a good-looking champion would also mean that more sponsors and advertisers are going to knock on his door now
- People who previously did not believe in him would now tell others, "I always knew he could do it!"
- People who were not close to him would start bringing up incidents shared by themselves and Schooling, affiliating themselves with the National Star.
- He has deferred his National Service for 3 years in order to undergo training and compete in the Rio Olympics. If / when he has to serve his time now, would he be able to take it? Will he suddenly have a lot of false friends or envious foes?
- He has made his parents, his schools and coaches as well as country very proud, and created a name for himself on a different level
- He can now easily contribute more to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, a campaign which he has helped kick-start with his initial SGD$10,000 donation in June 2015.
What Does It Mean for Singapore
- It means that (and I state the obvious here) Singapore does have its own talents, all that is required is the correct nurturing and development.
- It means that it is time to stop purchasing foreign talents and it is time to start grooming our own sports talents.
- It means that more support is important for budding sportsmen (and artists) in Singapore - in terms of family support, community support and financial support by the relevant Ministries.
- I hope Lawrence Wong and team sits up and start pondering more so that more sports scholarships, and overseas training programs can be in place.
- It means that there should not be sole emphasis on academic results, but one should also be recognized for their alternative talents, such as sports or arts. Imagine if Colin and May Schooling had been old-fashioned and academically-focused, then this phenomenal moment today would not have taken place.
- It also means that now that Singapore has been proven to be capable of breeding its own National Talents, there should be more to come, so that this would not become a one-off event.
Well done, Joseph Issac Schooling of Anglo-Chinese (Independent) High of Singapore! Looking forward to more worldwide records from you. In the meantime, let's not forget other national talents who have also made it to various games and / or brought back medals for the nation as well, such as Quan Zheng Wen, his sister Quah Ting Wen and Joscelin Yeo, etc. Let's continue to cheer them on.