Schooling Singaporeans on sportsmanship

AUG 1 — Five years ago I vividly recall watching Joseph Schooling swim past world champion Michael Phelps and finish the 100 metres butterfly as the new  Olympic champion, setting a record and winning Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal.

I assume many other Singaporeans remember this moment too; it was one that gave our little island state so much joy. For weeks, months, years after — we were proud! 

Proud of our literal homeboy making it big on the world stage. In a major event among the fiercest of competitors, we saw such commitment and considerable talent.

Today, days after his latest performance in the Tokyo Olympics — I am still so proud. 

Joseph Schooling of Singapore in action during the men’s 100m butterfly heats at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre July 29, 2021. — Reuters pic
Joseph Schooling of Singapore in action during the men’s 100m butterfly heats at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre July 29, 2021. — Reuters pic

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Schooling didn’t do so well this time but he’s still a credit to our nation. You don’t forfeit your past success; he is and will always be the Singaporean who gave our nation its first gold medal. 

And frankly, I am embarrassed to see anyone say otherwise. Mean comments that put him down, mock him, question his worth — these reactions are depressing to see and all too common on social media and web forums.

I am sure there are many constructive conversations being had about this. Competitive athletes in any field have good and bad days but simply by competing they should make us proud. 

After all, in the years since his gold-winning performance he has performed extremely well at the Asian Games and the SEA Games.

It’s hard enough to qualify for the Olympics — only a tiny, tiny fraction of those who compete ever get so far — but that he now has to face so much hate and derison despite his historic achievement and years of global competition is truly sad. 

Of course I am not making excuses. The goal is excellence but I believe the athletes are already hard enough on themselves. Our role on the sidelines is to cheer.

 I am mainly annoyed at my fellow countrymen who are — for a lack of a better word — ungrateful. This young man made us proud; like a good fangirl, I too attended the parade when he returned home and felt the palpable pride and joy he had inspired. 

Isn’t that the point of these competitions? To bring us together under one flag, to hold up the best among us and to catch them when they fall?  

So, I say: Schooling! Schooling! Schooling!

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