Singaporeans in Seoul rave over first Olympic gold as they celebrate National Day

Singaporean Grace Wong, her Korean husband Jimmy Kim and one-year-old daughter Alice at the 51st National Day reception in Seoul.
Singaporean Grace Wong, her Korean husband Jimmy Kim and one-year-old daughter Alice at the 51st National Day reception in Seoul.ST PHOTO: CHANG MAY CHOON

SEOUL - Singaporeans who gathered in Seoul for a belated National Day lunch reception on Saturday (Aug 13) had one more reason to celebrate - the nation's first Olympic gold medal. 

National pride was flying high, as everyone raved over swimmer Joseph Schooling's historic win at the Rio Olympics just two hours earlier. 

Hearing Singapore's national anthem being played at the international sporting arena, after Mr Schooling received his gold medal, even brought some to tears. 

Mr Johnathan Quek, 28, said he woke up to his sister's message on his family's WhatsApp chat group that "Joseph Schooling won us our first gold!" in capital letters.

"I searched online for video clips to see him swim, and I teared up when I saw the Singapore flag rise and the national anthem play," said Mr Quek, who runs a restaurant in Seoul. "It was touching and I felt incredibly proud." 

Ms Grace Wong made sure to watch the live telecast of the race on Korean television, together with her Korean husband and one-year-old daughter. 

"Living overseas, it's very rare that we can feel this sense of patriotism. That's why we decided to wear red and white today," she said. 

Ms Wong also praised Mr Schooling's parents for grooming and supporting him over the past few years as he trained hard towards his Olympic goal. She hopes his win will inspire other parents to support their children's passion for sports instead of pushing them to study hard and excel academically.

"If my daughter has a talent for sports, I'd groom her too. It's not always about studying," she added.

Over 100 Singaporeans, some with spouses and children, turned up at the 51st National Day reception held at Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel. It was organised by the Singapore Embassy in Seoul. A video of the Olympic race was shown during the event.

Ms Chua Pei Chi, president of the informal Singapore Club Seoul, said it was "good timing" to celebrate National Day and the Republic's first Olympic gold together.

She said she teared when "hearing mari kita" (referring to the national anthem) while watching the medal ceremony.

"I wish Joseph Schooling all the best and hope he doesn't put too much pressure on himself," she added.