One swimmer, one nation - Seismic 2016: Singapore sport

Champion with a clarity of purpose that spurs others

Singapore's swimmer Joseph Schooling answering questions from the media during a press conference at the Sports Hub, on Aug 16, 2016.
Singapore's swimmer Joseph Schooling answering questions from the media during a press conference at the Sports Hub, on Aug 16, 2016. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Sometimes a measure of a man is not just what he does but also what he says. Joseph Schooling's performance in the pool in Rio was fantastic but his words in the press room later were as gripping.

Exhausted and triumphant, he could have been excused for lapsing into cliches or launching into a gooey Oscar-style thank-you speech.

Instead, he was very clear about what he wanted to say, able to articulate what he had achieved and what it meant. It was as if he knew his purpose.

"It's been a tough road, not going to lie," he said.

"The first guy through the wall is always bloody. I had to take that blow and I'm thankful and blessed that I have the ability to accomplish the things I dream of as a little kid.

"This moment is not about me, it's about my coaches, my friends, my family... This swim wasn't for me, it was for my country."

 

There, with a few choice words, he put his win into context - that he had paved the way for the next wave of Singaporean athletes to follow, that if they dream big, they could win big. And he did it to put this Little Red Dot on the map.

I was impressed by his clarity of thought and also his poise. And that moment will stay with me for a long time.

Champions are great but thoughtful champions are even better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Champion with a clarity of purpose that spurs others'. Print Edition | Subscribe