C'wealth Games: The gift of a dream

It was not elation, or a sense of vindication after all the sacrifices made, that overcame Colin Schooling as he watched his son Joseph touch the wall in the 100m butterfly final at the Commonwealth Games yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Joseph made history when he touched home in second place, bagging the silver medal to become the first Singaporean swimmer to win a medal at a Commonwealth Games.

The 19-year-old clocked 51.69sec - a national record - and was just a four tenths of a second slower than South African winner Chad le Clos.

While the enormity of the occasion did not elude dad, it just wasn't the factor that made the most impact as he watched on TV.

"Relief, that's all I felt," Colin told The New Paper yesterday.

"There's a crazy amount of pressure mounted on him and that fell back on us.

"At times, it made me very agitated to the point of being angry.

"Because people don't understand the situations he was facing and the fact that he's also aware of the nation's expectations - and all this in addition to competing at this level," added Colin, who insists his son's biggest achievement lay beyond the history books.

"The most important thing in what Joe has done is not that he's made history, but that he's given all athletes in Singapore a belief that nothing is far-fetched. It's just about how badly you want it - and I hope they all dare to dream."

The Schooling family's journey does not end at Glasgow's Tollcross Swimming Centre - it cannot.

"I'm happy that he's moved beyond the South-east Asia Games level, and now has proven himself at the Commonwealth Games - he is now the fourth fastest in the world (this year) and the fastest in Asia (in the 100m butterfly)," said Colin.

"But no, we are not vindicated, and we won't be until he gets on that podium at the Rio Olympics in two years.

"All this is just part of that journey."

The Schoolings did not travel to Glasgow to witness their son's moment in the sun, but instead left late last night for the United States for the next step in the Olympic mission, a scene that is set in Texas.

Joseph is enrolled in the University of Texas, where he will start his undergraduate studies under the watchful gaze of Eddie Reese of the US Olympic team.

It will be an environment that Colin believes will be good for his son.


"The beauty is that in the US people may know that you're a star, but they treat you normally," he said.

"That was how even Michael Phelps was treated among his peers, and that's a very, very good thing.

"It will keep Joseph's feet on the ground."

Joseph's parents will also return to some semblance of a normal life, because university requirements will see their son live in a dormitory for two years, when he will be without direct parent-supervision for the first time.

"It will be good for him - he will learn to be independent and manage varsity life, and he'll now rely on the upbringing that we've given him," said Colin.

"It'll also be good for us, it'll allow us to focus on our businesses so that we can make enough for retirement, considering that we've spent a lot of our reserves, about $400,000 a year in these last few years," he revealed.

Dad is also looking forward to the opportunity to get back into the gym to improve his golf game.

"But I've no regrets whatsoever," said Colin, who fondly remembers one of the key moments that set Joseph's Olympic dream in motion. He recalled an eight-year-old Joseph waking him up at 4.30am to go for a training session.

Bleary-eyed, father asked his son: "Is this what you want?"

Joseph's answer was a simple "Yes".

Now, 11 years on, with his name in the history books, and on the world's radar, the journey has hit a happy milestone.

Said Colin: "We want to hear the Majullah Singapura being played when he's on the Olympic podium - that's the dream."


This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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