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Schooling goes back to school and aces visit with flying colours

SINGAPORE — Just four days after he became Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, Joseph Schooling was back at school — not the University of Texas, where he is currently studying though, but his primary school, Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) where he studied from 2002 to 2007.

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SINGAPORE — Just four days after he became Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, Joseph Schooling was back at school — not the University of Texas, where he is currently studying though, but his primary school, Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) where he studied from 2002 to 2007.

The 21-year-old took time off his busy schedule on Tuesday (Aug 16) to visit his alma mater and received a welcome from the staff and students that was as wild and raucous as the fanfare that greeted him at Changi Airport on Monday morning when more than 500 people turned up to receive him.

ACS students, teachers, cleaners, and school canteen stall owners and helpers all eagerly rushed to get a glimpse of the former ACSJ boy who stunned the world last Saturday when he outswam American Michael Phelps to win the 100m butterfly gold in an Olympic record time.

Arriving at the school’s Winstedt Road campus shortly before 8am, Schooling looked fresh and clearly happy to be back at the place where he spent many happy days growing up, as he was warmly greeted by some of his former teachers.

He then proceeded to the assembly hall for a Question & Answer and sharing session with the school’s Primary Three to Primary Six students who welcomed him with thunderous applause and enthusiastic chants of “Let’s go Schooling, let’s go!’

“It’s always great to back here,” said Schooling as he addressed the crowd which was also made up of students from the ACS family, including ACS (Independent) where he studied from 2008 to 2009 before leaving for the Bolles School, in Florida in the United States.

“I know how uncomfortable it is to sit cross-legged through assembly, so I am going to keep this short and meet as many of you guys as I can and take many pictures.”

“Today, I have got something special with me, something that I got from Rio,” he said as he took out his Olympic gold medal. And the crowd roared.

“Hopefully we can take a pretty picture with it if possible.”

More than a pretty picture, Schooling made a young boy’s day, giving him a memory to last for a lifetime.

After Primary Three student Darion Pang went on stage to present a bouquet of flowers to May, Schooling’s mother, Schooling stopped the boy from leaving, and put his Olympic gold medal around his neck, much to Darion’s joy and the delight of the crowd.

“It was very nerve-wrecking and exciting to get to hold and wear the gold medal,” the nine-year-old told reporters.

“He (Schooling) asked me if I wanted to wear it and that’s the really exciting part. I was very happy to see him today.”

Darion then passed the medal to schoolmate Marcus Lim, who was also on stage to hand out a token of appreciation to the Schoolings.

“This was really unexpected and exciting,” said Marcus, a Primary Four student and school swimmner.

“Joseph has inspired me to train harder and I hope to achieve what he has done in the future.”

During a 15-minute long Q&A session, Schooling fielded several questions from his rapt audience.

When asked how he responded to setbacks and kept himself motivated, he said: “You have got to understand what you want to do and what your goals are.

“My goal was to be the best in the world, but there were moments too where I did not want to go for class, or wake up early for morning practice.

“But if you want to achieve something, and become the best in the world, then you truly need to understand what you really want and approach it with passion every day.”

Schooling’s former teachers have fond memories of the 16-time South-east Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist as a student.

“He was always determined to do well from a young age and there was always something special about him, “ said Lee May Po, who has been the teacher in charge of ACSJ’s swimming team for the last 27 years.

“During his time here, he was always much faster than everyone in the pool but he was never complacent and always aimed to improve.

“Students of his age had to be woken up by their parents for morning swimming classes, but Schooling would wake his parents up instead,” she added with a laugh.

“I have seen him grow up over the years as a boy to a Olympic champion, and I am very proud of him.”

Schooling concluded his Q&A session by singing the first two lines of his school song solo before the audience proudly joined in unison.

Apart from the Q&A session, Schooling also toured his old school, causing much excitement wherever he went.

In the school canteen, the stall owners all came forward to congratulate him and take wefies with him, before he went through a guard of honour formed by Primary One and Two students.

After more touring, and a closed-door meet-and-greet session with past and present teachers and staff of the school, it was time for him to go because of his busy schedule for the day. He is scheduled to have a press conference this afternoon at the Black Box at the Singapore Sports Hub before meeting national squad swimmers in the evening.

He was seen off at the school gates by his former teachers who were happy that one of their former students took time off to visit his old school.

Peter Tan, the former principal of ACS (J), said: “He is a wonderful kid who is very well behaved and handles everything so well.

“The best part is that he remembers the people who have been in his life and that says a lot about his character.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ROMAINE SOH

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