IPOH • The euphoria over Joseph Schooling's victory has not just been felt in Singapore.
Up north, some 560km away, his maternal aunt who lives in the Malaysian city of Ipoh is also overjoyed. Music teacher Yim Kam Ling, 58, said she has received countless messages cheering his win.
"I'm the happiest aunt in the world. My phone has been buzzing with friends and family sending their love and support for my nephew," she was quoted as saying in a report yesterday by Malaysia's Malay Mail Online news website.
Although she was unable to catch the action live because she was working, she said she was ecstatic over the victory. "My heart is bursting with joy. I can only imagine how his parents feel," she said.
Schooling's mother May, 61, hails from Ipoh and is a Singapore permanent resident who has lived in Singapore for over 30 years.
Ms Yim said that Schooling's 86-year-old grandmother Yeoh Soon Poh had also watched him race on Saturday. "I called her to tell her about the good news but she said that she had seen the race live on television."
As a child, Schooling would visit Ipoh on long breaks with his parents, said Ms Yim. But even on holiday, he never missed a swim.
"He would swim at the Ipoh Royal Gold Club, the family's pool and at Ipoh City Council swimming complex. He loved swimming when he was a child. He basically lived in the pool... To him, a day without swimming would be considered strange," added Ms Yim, who last met her nephew at the SEA Games in Singapore last year.
His talent and discipline was visible from a very young age, she said. "I have never seen a boy that age who was so focused and disciplined. Even when he was here on holiday, he would go swimming as early as 5am."
She said the family would try their best to support him at his competitions. Although the whole family was not able to be in Rio de Janeiro to cheer him on, she said "we were with him in spirit".
She is hoping to next catch the gold medallist in action at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Schooling's historic Olympic triumph, she said, should silence his critics - some of whom have called for him to return to Singapore to complete his national service.
"He was the first Singaporean athlete to receive a deferment because he was training for the Olympics, and some people wanted him to go back. I am so glad that he proved them wrong," she told the Malay Mail.
As for what she would say to her nephew, now that he has achieved his goal, she said: "I would tell him to go on and chase after his passion. Go Joe, go!"