Historic payment a sporting landmark

ST VIDEO: NICOLE CHIA
Joseph Schooling (in red) receiving a mock cheque for $1 million last night from Tote Board chairman Moses Lee (left), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also presid
Joseph Schooling (in red) receiving a mock cheque for $1 million last night from Tote Board chairman Moses Lee (left), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council. The swimmer is the first athlete to earn the $1 million given for an individual Olympic gold medal as part of the council's Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme. The 21-year-old also received the Meritorious Service Medal (Pingat Jasa Gemilang) from Ms Fu during a ceremony after the cheque presentation. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Joseph Schooling becomes first recipient of a $1 million award as Rio Olympians honoured

When he touched the wall first in the 100m butterfly in Rio, swimmer Joseph Schooling became Singapore's maiden Olympic gold medallist.

Yesterday, the 21-year-old unlocked another first as he became the only athlete thus far to claim the landmark $1 million cheque through the Singapore National Olympic Council's (SNOC) multi-million dollar awards programme (MAP).

The MAP awards, sponsored by the Tote Board, disburse $1 million for an individual Olympic gold.

Schooling said: "It's great support from (the Tote Board). I don't think a lot of people will offer that much money to people that easily and that just goes to show how genuine they are and how invested they are in the sporting scene in Singapore, and that's really sweet."

He will pass on 20 per cent of that amount to the Singapore Swimming Association for its training and development schemes, as stipulated by the SNOC.

CHARTING A SPORTING FUTURE

(I hope it goes to) youth development and just bettering young swimmers in Singapore; that's all we can ask for. Basically use the money wisely, that's it.

JOSEPH SCHOOLING, on the 20 per cent of his $1 million payment that he passed on to the Singapore Swimming Association for training and development.

Said Schooling: "(I hope it goes to) youth development and just bettering young swimmers in Singapore; that's all we can ask for. Basically use the money wisely, that's it."

The University of Texas student had earlier called for more support for local athletes.

He stood by what he said, adding: "You just have to improve... I spoke a lot about that a couple of days ago and I'm not going to repeat myself.

"There are good people in the association.

"They'll lead the association in the right direction so I'm not too worried about it."

He was presented with the cheque by Tote Board chairman Moses Lee, together with guest of honour Tan Chuan-Jin, the SNOC president, as well as Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last night.

Mr Tan, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development, paid tribute to the 2016 Olympians, saying: "I had the privilege to be in Rio to support our athletes and officials and to witness the tenacity of our athletes as they put in their best efforts to compete against the best in the world.

"I witnessed the camaraderie of Team Singapore, displayed when athletes of different sports came together to form friendships, cheer each other on and encourage one another when times were tough. What I witnessed truly exemplifies the spirit of Team Singapore."

It was a night of celebration for the Team Singapore athletes and officials of the Rio 2016 contingent, who were also present at the award presentation dinner. Singapore was represented by 25 athletes in Rio across seven sports.

The 2016 Olympians each received mementos from Rio. These included an Olympic participant pin, a personalised card from Mr Tan, an Olympians Singapore medallion, and a personalised stamp from SingPost.

Among the guests was former weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, the Republic's first Olympic medallist who bagged a silver at Rome 1960. He was joined by two-time Olympic medallist Wang Yuegu, a former table tennis player.

A replay of Schooling's winning race was screened, and the 190-strong crowd gave the swimmer a standing ovation.

He set an Olympic record of 50.39sec en route to his gold medal in Brazil in August, ahead of 23-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps of the United States, South Africa's Chad le Clos and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, who all tied for second place on 51.14.

Schooling, who was also presented with the Meritorious Service Medal by Ms Fu at a private ceremony after the cheque presentation, believes the Republic will not have to wait another half-century for its next Olympic champion.

"Anything's possible, we have a lot of talent in Singapore," he said. "We're a young sporting nation and everything takes time.

"It took us 51 years to get a gold medal but I don't think it'll take another 51 years to have another Olympic gold medallist."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'Historic payment a sporting landmark'. Print Edition | Subscribe