This one’s for you, Singapore, and all who supported me: Schooling
RIO DE JANEIRO – Joseph Schooling has dedicated his Olympic gold-medal win to Singapore and to everyone who has helped to support his dream and ambition to win the country’s first-ever gold medal at the Games.
The 21-year-old who pressed his right hand hard against his heart as the Majulah Singapura played during the medal ceremony, told TODAY: “This moment is not all about me. It’s also about my coaches, my friends, and my family.
“When I was a six-year-old kid, I believe I could do it so this one wasn’t for me. It’s for my country, my friends, my family and all those people who supported me and believed in me.”
Schooling, a sophomore at the University of Texas, had decided back in 2001 at the age of six, after a chat with his relatives about his granduncle Lloyd Valberg, Singapore’s first-ever Olympian at the 1948 Olympics, that he too wanted to be an Olympian. More than that, he wanted to win an Olympic medal.
This morning, after the race, he was trying hard to make sense of his accomplishment and let it all sink it.
“Right now, I need to let this moment sink in, realise what I’ve done, and then have a better understanding of what I’ve accomplished,” he said.
But he also paid tribute to his rivals – Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh – who were all left in his wake and relegated to joint-second in the end.
Said Schooling: “All I can say is I’m really honoured and priviledged to have the opportunity to race in an Olympic final alongside huge names like Michael (Phelps), Chad (le Clos) and Laszlo (Cseh) – guys who have changed the face of this sport. Guys who have won the most number of golds and medals in Olympic history, a guy who will go down as the greatest of all time. I’m honoured and glad to get that moment.”
Schooling added that Singaporeans should not underestimate their ability to do well in sports on the global stage. He also said that he hoped his win will inspire more young sporting talents to aim high and strive to realise their sporting dreams.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, really. Some people believe that Singapore has a lot of (swimming) talent. I believe that,” said Schooling.
“(Coach) Sergio (Lopez) believes that. Eddie (Reese) believes that. And this is coming from some of the greatest minds in the world swimming community. For them to say that, and then for me to prove them right, that’s crazy. I hope this opens a new door or open more doors for sports in our country, and hopefully I’ve set a precedence for a lot more young guys to come up after us.
“It’s been a lot of hard work. I’ve done something that no one in our country has done before, I’ve received a lot of support and that’s phenomenal.
“I can’t really describe what that means to me but it has been a tough road, I’m not going to lie. The first guys through the wall is always bloody. I’ll have to take that blow and I’m thankful and blessed to have the ability to accomplish this.”
Schooling was also congratulated by Phelps, who was denied his 23rd career Olympic gold by the youngster. “Hats off to Joseph. I look forward to seeing how he progresses in the next four years,” he said.
In an earlier version of this report, we said that Schooling had a chat with his granduncle, Lloyd Valberg, in 2001, at the age of six. This is inaccurate. Schooling had a chat with his relatives about Valberg. Lloyd Valberg died in 1997.