One swimmer, one nation - Seismic 2016: Singapore sport

A 'sporting culture' in days to come

Singapore's first Olympic Gold Medallist Joseph Schooling, his mother May, and coach Sergio Lopez taking to the stage to acknowledge the crowd at Raffles City, the last stop of the victory parade on Aug 18, 2016.
Singapore's first Olympic Gold Medallist Joseph Schooling, his mother May, and coach Sergio Lopez taking to the stage to acknowledge the crowd at Raffles City, the last stop of the victory parade on Aug 18, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

Alice Soh confessed that she did not swim.

But no matter. Joseph Schooling was a hero and that was a good enough reason for the retiree to jostle with thousands of other Singaporeans at Raffles City Shopping Centre to try and get his autograph.

The interview with her, which was captured in a video of the Olympic champion's victory parade around Singapore on the The Straits Times' webpage, was a seminal moment for me.

Much has been made about how Singapore lacks a "sporting culture" and that we do not value sport as much as we should.

 

But listening to Madam Soh and watching the video of thousands of Singaporeans - regardless of age, gender, race, language or religion - turning up to celebrate his monumental feat with him hint that, perhaps, there is another side to the story.

The euphoria sparked by Schooling's victory at the Rio Olympics told me that we, as a nation, value sporting heroes.

That we know the significance of an achievement, appreciate it and treasure it.

It gave me belief that, some day, we too will be able to boast that Singapore has this amorphous element known as "sporting culture".

And that that day is not too far away.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'A 'sporting culture' in days to come'. Print Edition | Subscribe