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Schooling ‘embodies S’pore’s never-say-die spirit’

SINGAPORE — Hours after touching down in Singapore, Olympics swimming champion Joseph Schooling and his parents received a standing ovation in Parliament on Monday (Aug 15), following a motion moved to formally recognise his achievements at the Rio Games, which Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin described as “historic”.

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SINGAPORE — Hours after touching down in Singapore, Olympics swimming champion Joseph Schooling and his parents received a standing ovation in Parliament on Monday (Aug 15), following a motion moved to formally recognise his achievements at the Rio Games, which Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin described as “historic”. 

Moving the motion, Mr Tan, who is president of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), said the 21-year-old’s gold medal performance in the 100m butterfly race exemplifies the Singapore spirit of “our never-say-die attitude, and our determination to persevere and succeed against tough odds”. 

He also paid tribute to the unwavering support of Schooling’s parents Colin and May, who were seated in the gallery with him. “They made huge sacrifices to provide the fullest support possible to help their son realise his dreams … They are an embodiment of what family means.”

Schooling won the race on Saturday with a timing of 50.39 seconds, breaking an Olympic record set by Michael Phelps. Before Parliament commenced, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced in a statement that Schooling had been granted a fresh deferment from National Service (NS) until after the 2020 Olympics. 

In a Facebook post on Monday evening, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was "deeply honoured" to welcome Schooling and his parents to Parliament House. 

"Joseph’s win signifies much more than Singapore’s first gold medal. He sweated and sacrificed. With determination and fire in the belly, he has shown a new generation of aspiring athletes that dreams are worth striving for," Mr Lee wrote.

"Achievements, too, are more than medals. Many of our athletes have come away from the Olympics with new personal bests, and valuable experience going up against the world’s best," he added. "Swimmer Quah Zheng Wen set two new personal bests in the pool. Rower Saiyidah Aisyah reached the quarterfinals, finishing as 3rd best Asian competitor. Sprinter Timothee Yap and shuttler Derek Wong went up against Usain Bolt and Lee Chong Wei respectively - both the best in the world. They have worked hard, and they all deserve recognition for their efforts."

TODAY understands that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also invited Schooling to attend the National Day Rally on Sunday.  

President Tony Tan, who witnessed Schooling’s feat in Rio, also posted on Facebook and said of Schooling's performance: “It shows that one can achieve the extraordinary if one follows one’s passion. I am confident that Schooling’s win will inspire more young Singaporeans to follow their dreams.” 

In Parliament, Mr Tan also thanked the Singapore Swimming Association, coaches Sergio Lopez and Eddie Reese for their efforts, Sport Singapore and SNOC, the University of Texas, and Mindef.

Schooling’s gold medal adds to the first Paralympics gold medal won by Yip Pin Xiu in Beijing 2008, and Singapore “must build on this success, to strengthen our culture of sports, and make Singapore a sporting nation”, Mr Tan said. He also congratulated all Team Singapore athletes, which include 25 other Olympians and 12 Paralympians. “To qualify for the Games is already an immense achievement, and they have all done Singapore very proud,” he said. 

Several other Members of Parliament also spoke, among them Mr Christopher De Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC). Said Mr De Souza: “It was also how you embraced your victory that has moved many people, many Singaporeans. You spoke highly of Michael Phelps and shared that to race for others greater than yourself, is deeply motivating.”

Ms Lim paid tribute to Schooling’s parents: “Joseph’s parents have given him the security to enable him to pursue his dreams, supported his passion for the sport and tirelessly fought for his cause … Without them, Joseph becoming an Olympic champion would not have been possible.”

Speaking to the media, Schooling said it was a “privilege” to be the first to be honoured in Parliament with a special motion. “It was pretty cool and I had goosebumps. It was really nice and I’m glad I had the chance to be here today,” said Schooling, who will also seek permission from the University of Texas to return later so that he can stay for the rally. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NOAH TAN

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