It is all about belief in ourselves

 Joseph Schooling posing with his gold medal, on August 12.
Joseph Schooling posing with his gold medal, on August 12. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

My heart is still racing in disbelief that one of our own - a son of Singapore - has won an Olympic gold medal.

What sweetens the sensation is that he is home-grown and authentic - speaking like a regular Singaporean in spite of his years in the United States.

More than anything else, for me (and I believe for many fellow Singaporeans), Joseph Schooling's feat tells us loud and clear that we should stop underestimating ourselves.

His feat should have a messianic effect on us - reminding us that we are not short of talent and have the ability to punch above our weight. After all, we have done this many times and on many fronts.

We need to believe in ourselves. More importantly, we need to truly embrace this belief. Our actions must be in sync with it.

For starters, we can afford to go easy on the "we are a small red dot" apologetic rhetoric. Said too long, it can create a "small man" syndrome.

I remember smiling as a much shorter Schooling stood tall next to towering legends such as Michael Phelps. Our young man exuded admirable confidence and composure.

This type of confidence - which is increasingly valued in a world of hype and noise- comes when you know that someone you respect and love has an unwavering and well-founded belief in you.

Schooling's parents believed enough in his talent to send him abroad to gain exposure and hone his ability. Not only did these regular folk spend close to US$1 million (S$1.35 million), but they were also prepared to have their son live away from them from the age of 14.

For me, Colin and May Schooling are the real heroes. For parents, like my wife and me, they are role models and a sobering reminder of the importance of believing in our children enough to do the right thing by them, even if this means pushing them to realise dreams they never started having.

Celebrating champions is important. This is the easy part. What we need to work towards more - as parents, teachers, the Government and a people - is to acknowledge talent when it is nascent and take a chance on it and invest in it, without reservation. For this, we need belief.

Congratulations, Joseph Schooling, you are a national treasure. Colin and May Schooling, thank you for the inspiration, and for showing the way.

What a terrific way to start the next 50 years!

Viswa Sadasivan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'It is all about belief in ourselves'. Print Edition | Subscribe