Joseph Schooling's Olympic gold

Champ's parents deserve credit for risk they took

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling with his parents Colin and May Schooling.
Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling with his parents Colin and May Schooling. PHOTO: AFP

Like many Singaporeans, I waited anxiously for the live telecast of the Rio Olympics 100m butterfly final, as this was the first time we had a potential gold medal winner in swimming.

Joseph Schooling did not disappoint ("Historic moment for Schooling, historic moment for Singapore"; yesterday). He put up a stellar performance, defeating swimming greats like Michael Phelps of the United States. He even rewrote an Olympic record.

As Schooling stood on the winner's rostrum and our National Anthem was played, I was emotional and could not hold back my tears. I was proud that as a tiny nation, with few great sporting achievements, we could produce an athlete of world-class standing.

I can empathise with the joy and relief of Schooling and his parents in realising a dream at the end of a long journey of faith and hope.

While we congratulate Schooling for his talent, diligence and perseverance, I feel that the people whom we should pile accolades on are his parents.

They were not only able to spot his talent and passion from a young age, but were also prepared to invest time, energy and money to nurture these, had faith in his ability, and risked a shattered dream should things not pan out the way they had hoped.

Not many Singaporean parents are prepared to take this path. They would rather have their children opt for the tried and tested, which is to study hard, do well in their studies and land a good job with attractive remuneration. This is especially so as we lack a strong sporting culture, and a sporting career is deemed by many here as short-lived and hardly lucrative, unlike the case in the United States, Europe, China and other great sporting countries.

So even while Schooling's achievement serves as an inspiration to our young, it takes a lot more for them to reach world standards. It requires a great investment of time and energy, and parental support, belief and faith in nurturing a talent and passion - without certainty of the desired eventual outcome.

How many of us are prepared to embark on such a journey?

Schooling and his parents are a unique case, in that they are partners in nurturing a talent and passion, which they hoped would materialise into a dream come true. And I am glad it did.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'Champ's parents deserve credit for risk they took'. Print Edition | Subscribe