The day a Singaporean kid ruled the planet

Joseph Schooling of Singapore with the gold medal on the podium after winning the Rio 2016 Olympic Games men's 100m butterfly final at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 12 August 2016.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

When Manny Pacquiao boxes, his entire country comes to a stop and Filipinos are glued to their television screens. When Joseph Schooling was about to swim his 100m butterfly final on the morning of Aug 13, my 72-year-old father was gently tending a community garden a few floors below our HDB apartment. Every man must have his own interests.

Upstairs, like a true sports nerd, I was reciting swimming records to my bemused mother and sister. They are both Manchester United fans whose purpose in life is to taunt this Liverpool diehard.

The cheers began the moment Schooling appeared on TV, walking out to his swimming lane, emotionless but ready.But that morning, there was no partisanship, just the three of us, together, fixated on a pool of water.

In less than a minute, it was over. Schooling was first. My mother cheered, my sister whooped, I hollered. Then, minutes later, Schooling ascended to the top of the podium and a striking image formed on the TV screen.

The Singaporean was standing just below the Olympic logo, which is five interlinked rings that represent five connected continents. When he raised his arms in the traditional victory pose, it almost seemed that he was holding up the rings.

As if to say, a kid from anywhere in the world could rule the planet. Even if he came from our part of the globe.

hankeong@sph.com.sg

Joseph Schooling back in S'pore: Here's what he got up to

  • (L to R) Tote Board chairman Moses Lee; Joseph Schooling; Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu; Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development and President of the Singapore National Olympic Council.
  • It was a clash of the titans this afternoon as Singapore's Olympic gold medallist took on ONE FC's Women's Atomweight Champion in an MMA cage.
  • 'Aquaman' Joseph Schooling faced-off with Singapore's MMA 'Wonder Woman' Angela Lee at Evolve MMA located in Raffles Place.
  • Swimmer Joseph Schooling reading a book on Singapore's Olympians, while Singapore's first Olympic medallist Tan Howe Liang (left) is greeted by May Schooling (right).
  • The one-of-a-kind MMA seminar saw the duo conducting a mini 'fight-camp' for Schooling where they taught him some basic moves in striking, grappling and submission through a serious of demonstrations.
  • Christian coached Schooling's friend 'Tripp' while his sister served as mentor to the 'King of the Butterfly'.
  • So, as a fish out of the water, how did Schooling fare?
  • He had no trouble with the punches and kicks. When it came to grappling and submission however, 21-year-old required a little more coaching from the reigning One Championship Women's Atomweight Champion.
  • At the end of the 20-minute training session Schooling managed to smoothly perform a take-down and a rear-naked choke on his MMA counterpart, which are rather complex moves for someone with no fighting experience.
  • Following the seminar, both athletes responded to questions about their respective sports as well as their personal lives.
  • Joseph Schooling, who won Singapore's first gold medal at the Olympic Games, will receive SGD 1 million dollars as part of the SNOC multi-million dollar awards programme (MAP) sponsored by the Tote Board family comprising Tote Board, Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club, at Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Nov 24 2016. That is followed by presentation of national day award.
  • Mr Peter Soon, (holding handphone) Team Singapore official, taking photos with (from left) Justin Liu, Audrey Yong, Amanda Ng, Sara Tan, and Joseph Schooling.
  • Joseph Schooling decorates a Christmas tree with kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Kallang Wave Mall on 24 November, 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling pictured with with kids from from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, nine-year-olds Joshua Ong (right), Joshua Koh (not pictured) and Boon Kye Feng (notr pictured) before driving them around the outskirts of the Kallang Wave Mall in a Porsche Cayenne on 24 November, 2016.
  • For the first time since their feat in Rio, (R to L) Singapore's first Olympic Gold medallist, Joseph Schooling, joined Paralympic double Gold Medallist Yip Pin Xiu and Bronze Medallist Theresa Goh to celebrate the SSA Legacy Council Exhibition at the National Museum.
  • The three medalist meet for the first time to celebrate the SSA Legacy Council Exhibition at the National Museum.
  • For the first time since their feat in Rio, Joseph Schooling joins Yip Pin Xiu and Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh to celebrate the SSA Legacy Council Exhibition at the National Museum.
  • (From left) Singapore's first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling, Singapore's first Olympic medallist Tan Howe Liang, International Olympic Committee member Ng Ser Miang, Marina Bay Golf Course.
  • Olympic champion Joseph Schooling meeting President Tony Tan Keng Yam during the Singapore Swimming Association Inaugural Fundraiser dinner at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016. Between them are SSA president Lee Kok Choy (left) and Dr SM Yuen, medical director of Atlas Medical Laser and Aesthetics Clinic.
  • Olympic champion Joseph Schooling looking on as President Tony Tan Keng Yam shakes hands with Mr Colin Schooling during the Singapore Swimming Association Inaugural Fundraiser dinner at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • Olympic champion Joseph Schooling with President Tony Tan Keng Yam during the Singapore Swimming Association Inaugural Fundraiser dinner at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • This unique event organised by ONE Championship saw Angela Lee, 20, and her brother, Christian, 17, imparting their skills in fighting to Singapore's Olympic gold medallist.
  • Olympic champion Joseph Schooling singing a duet with singer-songwriter Lorraine Tan during the Singapore Swimming Association Inaugural Fundraiser dinner at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling having a photo taken with guests at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling sharing a moment with a fan.
  • Singapore's first Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling, meet the media session, Tanah Merah Country Club.
  • Joseph Schooling and his father Colin on the buggy towards the 10th tee-off at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling teeing off at the 11th hole at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • (L to R) SMRT general manager Kwek Hyen Chee, Joseph Schooling and Singapore Pools CEO Seah Chin Siong at the 12th hole at Tanah Merah Country Club on Nov 22, 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, looking through the binoculars at the 11th hole during a golf tournament for the Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) inaugural fundraiser at Tanah Merah Country Club’s Garden Course on 22 November 2016.
  • SICC Swimming Chairman Mr Ivan Chua (second from left) presenting Joseph Schooling with this SICC Swimming Ambassador certificate and personalised Club T-Shirt.
  • Joseph Schooling giving his thank you speech.
  • The Eurasian Association confers Joseph Schooling the title of the Visitor of the Eurasian Community House and announces the Joseph Schooling Sports Scholarship.
  • The Eurasian Association confers Joseph Schooling the title of the Visitor of the Eurasian Community House and announces the Joseph Schooling Sports Scholarship.
  • Eurasian Association's president Benett Theseira (right) unveils the plaque conferring the the title of the Visitor of the Eurasian Community House to Joseph Schooling as Eurasian Association's second vice-president Yvonne Pereira (left) looks on.
  • Joseph Schooling and Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez, on the way to the SPH auditorium for a book signing session of the book titled "Schooling Joseph", followed by a session with School Pocket Money Fund children, on Mon 21 Nov 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling greets fans and media in SPH before a book signing session of the book titled "Schooling Joseph", followed by a session with School Pocket Money Fund children, on Mon 21 Nov 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling was at SPH for a book signing on the 21 Nov, followed by a session with School Pocket Money Fund children, where Schooling and ST news editor Marc Lim will read the book "From Kid to King" to the children.
  • Joseph Schooling has a photo taken with (front) Alonzo Lim, 5, Alexandre Lim, 2, and their mother Sally Ng, 34, during a book signing session of the book titled "Schooling Joseph", followed by a session with School Pocket Money Fund children, on Mon 21 Nov 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling signs an autograph for (left) Jayden Kok, 6, during a book signing session of the book titled "Schooling Joseph", followed by a session with School Pocket Money Fund children, on Mon 21 Nov 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling and ST news editor Marc Lim will read the book "From Kid to King" to the children.
  • Children and Joseph Schooling holding on to the book, "From Kid to King" after a story-telling session by Schooling himself.
  • The Schoolings at a book signing session for a new photo book titled "Hello, My Name is Joseph Schooling", at Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City.
  • Joseph Schooling at a book signing session for a new photo book titled "Hello, My Name is Joseph Schooling", at Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City.
  • Joseph Schooling signing an autograph for Jenna Wong, seven, at a session for his photo book titled Hello, My Name Is Joseph Schooling at Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City on 20 November 2016.
  • Joseph Schooling takes his leave after a book signing session for a new photo book titled "Hello, My Name is Joseph Schooling", at Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City.
  • Joseph Schooling having lunch with flamboyant businessman Pang Chin Keong, who has in the past given the swimmer cash prizes for his sporting feats, at Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant on Nov 19 2016.
  • The flamboyant businessman Pang Chin Keong (right), who has in the past given the swimmer cash prizes for his sporting feats.
  • In celebration of Team Singapore's outstanding performances at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, President Tony Tan Keng Yam will be hosting a tea reception for all participating athletes and officials. Joseph Schooling, Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh attended the tea reception.
  • Joseph Schooling shakes President Tony Tan Keng Yam's hand at the tea reception for all participating athletes and officials. Joseph Schooling, Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh will be there.
  • President Tony Tan Keng Yam speaks to Quah Ting Wen, Quah Zheng Wen and Joseph Schooling at the tea reception.


This article was first published on Dec 31, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.