One swimmer, one nation - Seismic 2016: Singapore sport

A family trying to make the most of their time together

Singapore’s Olympic champion Joseph Schooling (centre) with father Colin and mother May at a book-signing event for his photo book titled Hello, My Name Is Joseph Schooling, on Nov 20, 2016.
Singapore’s Olympic champion Joseph Schooling (centre) with father Colin and mother May at a book-signing event for his photo book titled Hello, My Name Is Joseph Schooling, on Nov 20, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

It was just another lazy afternoon in the Schoolings' Marine Parade home. Joseph had just wrapped up another public engagement and was home for a quick nap.

He went into his bedroom and emerged minutes later, holding a watch. "Happy birthday dad," said the Olympic champion, passing the gift to a surprised Colin as his mother, May, looked on.

At a loss for words, Colin kissed his son and began fiddling with the dual time watch, which shows the time in Singapore and in Texas, where Joseph is based.

In a November week choked with commitments, this moment stood out most for me because it was a timely reminder that away from the interviews and the camera flashes, this is a family of three simply getting on with life and making the most of what little time they have together.

 

It also shows how the journey - from sending their only child abroad when he was just 14, to overcoming the obstacles they have faced since - has brought them closer.

For sure, Joseph's competitive spirit guided him to an Olympic record. But it is clear why he often cites his parents as one of his greatest motivations to swim.

Colin's birthday is in January but chances are father and son may not meet then. So Joseph had to take the chance he got to present the gift. As it always is with the Schoolings, it's a matter of timing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'A family trying to make the most of their time together'. Print Edition | Subscribe