It’s not easy being an athlete in Singapore. If you’re lucky, you get some form of public funding. But most will have to fight it out on their own. Such was the case for Joseph Schooling – now Olympic gold medalist in the 100m butterfly event.
And already the credit-claimers are circling en masse. Look at how Grace Fu dodged a bullet with her comment on live telecasts, but was front and center in pictures at the live event. Or how our reclusive President Tony Tan, who didn’t utter a single comment prior to the event, gleefully tried on the gold medal at their meeting. And of course, most recently, Lee Bee Wah proclaimed on Facebook how she happy she was to have “asked MINDEF to let elite male athletes defer their NS.”
Actual contributions aside, my rising annoyance at their behaviour was less of what they didn’t do, but what they are now doing after the win. This isn’t about you folks. Step away from the Schoolings and let them have their glory. They fought for this – yes, even the deferment – mostly by themselves. They committed 13 years and over a million of their own hard-earned money to this. Be as gracious as the family have been, and step aside. As Septa Unella succinctly chanted, “Shame. Shame.”
Probably the only thing even worse, is how some Singaporeans are throwing shade on how authentic the win is by questioning how local Joseph and his family are. Last I know to be a Singaporean, you just have to be born here. And Joseph is third-generation at that.
One even went as far as to discredit him by saying he was not bred here, as clearly shown to effect by his apparent lack of lahs and lehs during his interviews. True story.
So what if his father is British by blood. So what if his mother is Malaysian Chinese. So what, so what , so what.
We are what we fight for.
And we are lucky the Schoolings are happy to represent our country. If nationality is something you guard so zealously, please know that you did nothing to be given that label – your mother did. Of all things to be discriminate about!
Thank the divine powers for giving us such examples of grace, for the family has taken everything in their stride, weathering judgmental journalists and bitter locals alike. And so I shall do the same, and focus on the good and power of such dreams.
Thank you also to our first-ever Paralympics gold medalist Yip Pin Xiu for her win in 2008 with a new world record. Thank you to Tan Howe Liang for winning our Olympic medal ever in 1960. Thank you to those, like Vincent Poon, who actually was by Joseph’s side as he grew and worked to what he is today. And because dreams are powerful even in the dreaming, thank you too to these dreamers and doers who also fought alongside Joseph in Rio 2016:
Derek Wong Zi Liang. Liang Xiao Yu. Sayidah Aisyah Mohamed Raffa’ee. Colin Cheng Xin Ru. Elizabeth Yin Yue Ling. Justin Liu Xia Man. Denise Lim Ke Xin. Jovina Choo Bei Fen. Amanda Ng Kai Ling. Griselda Khng. Sara Tan Li Ching. Leonard Ong. Jasmine Ser Xiang Wei. Teo Shun Xie. Quah Zheng Wen. Chen Feng. Gao Ning. Feng Tian Wei. Yu Meng Yu. Zhou Yi Han.
Last of all, thank you Michael Phelps for being an inspiration even to this day.
Rest well Joseph Isaac Schooling. You sure deserve one after 13 years. Come get your Chye Tow Kueh.