A hallmark moment for trio

Para-swimmer Theresa Goh taking a selfie with fellow Hall of Fame inductees Joseph Schooling and Laurentia Tan in front of the Hall of Fame wall at the Singapore Sports Hub.
Para-swimmer Theresa Goh taking a selfie with fellow Hall of Fame inductees Joseph Schooling and Laurentia Tan in front of the Hall of Fame wall at the Singapore Sports Hub.PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Schooling, Tan and Goh savour the day as they enter S'pore's Sport Hall of Fame

Never before have Singapore athletes been inducted into the Sport Hall of Fame in front of thousands, with raucous cheers filling the atmosphere.

Yesterday, however, saw 6,000 spectators at the OCBC Square cheering the Hall of Fame's newest members - Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling, para-equestrienne Laurentia Tan and para-swimmer Theresa Goh.

Most of the spectators were students from the Victoria-Cedar Alliance, having taken part in an outdoor walk that signalled the finale of this year's GetActive! Singapore.

Each Hall of Fame inductee was introduced by someone familiar who had played a role in their respective sporting journeys - Tan by team manager Monique Heah, Goh by best friend and Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu, and Schooling by The Straits Times' (ST) assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath.

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Standing on stage watching a replay of the 100m butterfly final at the Rio Olympics, almost a year to the day of his most famous swim, Schooling said it brought him back to a "special moment" in his life. It is presumably a greater source of strength in a year that has felt like a rollercoaster for the 22-year-old.

"It's been a rough year," said Schooling, whose bronze medal at last month's World Championships fell short of his own expectations.

"I didn't do as well as I'm accustomed to, or I've been doing for the last few years. It's not necessarily all bad. There have been positives. I found the drive, the fire back inside of me to get up and train.

"This is a great honour not only for me, but for my family and my country. Being on the wall alongside uncle (Ang) Peng Siong, Joscelin (Yeo), uncle (C.) Kunalan... that's a force to be reckoned with and it's a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life."

For four-time Paralympian Theresa Goh, she hopes others will remember - and be inspired by - her doggedness, or "stubbornness", as the 30-year-old puts it.

Born with spina bifida, the para-swimmer won a bronze in the SB4 100m breaststroke at last year's Rio Paralympics, an emotional reward for persevering in sport despite coming close to quitting.

She had been touted for success in Beijing in 2008, but fell short as she finished fourth, less than a second off the bronze-winning time.

She told ST: "I was utterly broken then, but I had to be broken to be built again. That really changed me completely.

"I was so close to saying, 'I'm done.' I was just so exhausted and I wasn't willing to go through that again. But it's sometimes about trusting yourself enough."

Fellow Paralympian Tan, who flew back to Singapore from England where she is based, will know a thing or two about belief.

The 38-year-old, despite being born deaf and with cerebral palsy, never thought anything was out of her reach.

Said Tan, who is Singapore's first Paralympic medallist and has four medals from two Games: "Our perception and our attitudes are sometimes more limiting than what could be. With creativity, encouragement, support, hope and a leap of faith, anything can be possible.

"To know that my sports career and its legacy will forever be a part of Singapore's history… it is an amazing honour and very, very humbling.

"I hope that future generations will be inspired and instead of thinking, 'I could do that', they will say, 'I am going to do that.' "

The trio were inducted at the Singapore Sports Hub in the company of several predecessors, including sailor Ben Tan and table tennis players Feng Tianwei and Wang Yuegu.

Said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who was guest of honour: "It's not just a celebration of their personal achievements, the triumph of the human spirit over physical limitation, but more importantly, they have the ability to bring a nation together.

"They're great additions to the Sport Hall of Fame - their determination, their single-minded pursuit of excellence, their perseverance, resilience will be great (examples) to younger Singaporeans and athletes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'A hallmark moment for trio'. Print Edition | Subscribe