Olympic glory

An end to nation's gold medal drought

(From left) Chad le Clos, Michael Phelps and Joseph Schooling with their medals at the Rio Olympic Games on Aug 12.
(From left) Chad le Clos, Michael Phelps and Joseph Schooling with their medals at the Rio Olympic Games on Aug 12.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Singapore won its first Olympic medal in 1960 with Tan Howe Liang bagging the silver for weightlifting in Rome. For 55 years, that was the closest the country's athletes came to winning the elusive gold medal.

Then, in August, Joseph Schooling propelled his way to victory ahead of heavyweights Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh.

It was a stunning moment for Singapore, and one that was cheered with wild abandon.

The euphoria has naturally died down four months on, but Schooling's win has far-reaching implications.

For instance, it questions the way champions are raised. Colin and May Schooling spent more than $1 million of their own money on their son's training and education.

The historic gold medal, and the Schoolings' $200,000 contribution to the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA), may encourage more Singaporeans to chase their own dreams of gold.

SSA executive director Edwin Ker hoped "Joseph's win at the Olympics will leave a legacy where more Singaporeans will... take to the pool" and be inspired to "be world-class beaters".

The Schoolings will not be throwing a big year-end party in Austin, Texas, where they are now. For them, 2016 will always be a memorable year, and hopefully "the first of many more special years to come".

Said Mrs Schooling: "Joseph's win, for us, will always be an integral part of our lives, so it will always be part of every celebration."

But the family has words for the nation.

"We loved the way all Singaporeans have rejoiced with us and we hope that this momentum will make all 'dare to dream' and have the grit to go for your dreams!

"All the best for 2017!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'An end to nation's gold medal drought'. Print Edition | Subscribe