Joseph Schooling shows gratitude to first coach at event

Salutations aside, they hardly spoke much.

The one-minute dialogue was largely dominated by monosyllables.

"Many thanks, Uncle Poon," was how Joseph Schooling opened his conversation with Vincent Poon.

And Schooling's first coach and mentor Poon replied: "Well done".

The momentous occasion probably did not lend itself to keeping them engaged in conversation.

For everyone, in the 100-odd crowd - armed with either handphones, autograph books, caps, tee shirts or just slips of paper - wanted a part of Schooling.

Yesterday's meeting took place at Tanah Merah Country Club's (TMCC) Garden Lounge, where the club honoured and hailed Schooling.

There were banners, posters and a makan kechil to show the club's gratitude for his historic Olympic gold medal - Singapore's first - victory in Rio.

It was a private gathering where club chairman Ng Kee Choe and his general committee turned up in force to welcome home a junior member who started his swimming career at the distinguished club.

Looking weary and still jet-lagged after yet another day of sporting engagements since his arrival from Brazil on early Monday morning, Schooling's face lit up when he met Poon.

For as the 21-year-old megastar acknowledged later, he would not be where he is - at the summit of world swimming and global fame - if not for the springboard set up by Poon at the TMCC pool when he was only four.

Poon, 69, a reputed coach who still teaches at TMCC, said: "I have never seen a student like Joe. He was always punctual.

"He followed instructions to a tee and he gave his 100 per cent at training.


"What struck me most about him was his fearlessness.

"He would accept any challenge. I am truly proud of him."

Later in an address to the gathering at TMCC's Garden Lounge, Schooling said: "I remember Uncle Poon giving the other kids a 10-second advantage and making me do catch-up over one length of the pool.

"I got my butt kicked most of the time. But all the hard work has paid off."

Then, in a tribute to his former coach, Schooling said: "In fact, this event belongs not to me, but to Uncle Poon.

"For he played a great part in making me what I am today."

The applause from the crowd certainly underscored the point.

This article was first published on August 18, 2016.
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