Going Gaga over schooling

Going Gaga over schooling
Joseph Schooling during the 28th SEA Games in one of the Swimming finals at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on 7 June 2015.
PHOTO: NP

Joseph Schooling is starting to get on my nerves.

He's becoming the Hugh Jackman of the Singapore sports community, a handsome, talented, caring and sharing kind of guy.

He's practically perfect in every way. He's Mary Poppins in a pair of Speedos.

And now he's giving five-figure sums to charity. Not content with making men everywhere peer down at their paunches, he's now got us opening up our hearts and wallets.

He's Bob Geldof with better hair.

His outlandish swimming feats were already proving a bit of a turn-off. His nine gold medals and just as many records at the South-east Asia Games left most of us feeling emasculated.

Schooling lowered Ang Peng Siong's men's 50 metres freestyle record - one that had stood since 1982 - with a ludicrous time of 22.47 seconds.

I can complete 50m freestyle in about a week and a half.

Schooling glides through the pool with the grace of the most balletic of marine mammals. I thrash along like a chainsaw while whimpering: "I've got a torn rotator cuff injury. I can't lift my arm over my head. I can only do doggy paddle."

And allow me to digress to make an invaluable point to middle-aged male readers everywhere. Be warned. There is no dignity in a 40-year-old man doing doggy paddle in a public pool.

Women want to see men like Schooling cruising like a Baywatch lifesaver. They don't want middle-aged men looking like Lassie.

Already struggling with the stigma of flicking my paws in the water like a drowning dog, the last thing I needed was a kid half my age breaking records like a demented DJ.

And where did those pecs come from? Young men are not allowed to have pectoral muscles like that, certainly not in my living room, where I often found my wide-eyed wife staring at the TV during Schooling's events.

"He's certainly a good swimmer," I said, eager to get her attention and perhaps make her blink.

"Oh, is he a swimmer?" she sighed. "I hadn't noticed. You know, if you swam more often, you could have a chest like his."

"The Kardashians couldn't have a chest like his."

HEAVING BOSOMS

Athletes shouldn't have such heaving bosoms, certainly not in my living room. Schooling always appeared to be five metres away from lactating.

But finally, thankfully, the SEA Games has ended, offering the enticing prospect of the young, gifted Schooling taking his medals, his records and his swollen chest out of my desperately inferior life and away from my wife's eye line.

But he still wasn't done. He popped up in midweek to give $10,000 of his hard-earned income to charity on his 20th birthday.

My wife read the story and sighed, her knees practically buckling. She needed a lie down. She certainly didn't need me.

"He's given so much to charity, isn't he lovely," she cooed, glaring at me and my vest covered in milky, cornflake stains. "I see you still haven't been swimming."

So, I took my cereal and retired to my office, reading in microscopic detail about Schooling's charitable exploits, his explosive swimming career and his targets for next month's World Championships in Rio.

He intends to finish in the world's top three. Of course he does, presumably with one arm tied behind his back, whilst looking impossibly windswept and attractive and giving generously to charity.

As time passed at the laptop, I realised I'd spent more time looking at Schooling's tight chest in the last hour than was culturally acceptable.

When I was eventually discovered outside the Schooling family home with a pair of binoculars, I accepted that my obsession with Singapore's swimming star was moving into stalking territory.

But there is something about Schooling that just makes us all smile, particularly my wife (for heaven's sake, man, put a shirt on more often).

He's extraordinarily talented, but reassuringly humble.

He swims like a king, but has never lost the common touch. Singapore is lucky to have him.

In all honesty, he deserves the heartiest of handshakes.

But the conditions of my restraining order make that impossible.


This article was first published on June 22, 2015.
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