SINGAPORE - National Day may be over but Changi Airport was a sea of red and white early Monday morning (Aug 15), as fans of Singapore's new sporting hero Joseph Schooling turned up to welcome the Olympic gold medal winner home.
Mr Chua Wee Meng, 70, have been at the airport since 10pm on Sunday.
"Schooling is handsome and I hope to get a photo with him. It's the best chance I've got," said the retiree.
Student Phelan Wong, 25, was at the airport with his former classmate Aziz Azhar. Aziz, 25, believed that Schooling's win shows that Singapore can produce sporting talents, although they must be cultivated properly.
"Schooling has good coaches, teachers and parents who are 100 per cent supportive. Being able to go overseas to train helps too," said Mr Aziz, who works part-time in events logistics and also plays football.
History was made on Aug 13 when Schooling, 21, clinched the Republic's first Olympic gold medal at the 100m butterfly final with a timing of 50.39 - an Olympic record that beat even world renowned swimmer Michael Phelps, 31.
Schooling is scheduled to arrive at Belt 42 in Terminal 3 at 5.30am on Singapore Airlines flight SQ67.
By 4.30am, an hour before Schooling is due to arrive, crowds have already started to form. Screens have been set up around the arrival hall to allow people to observe the action.
Schooling's victory has united the nation, and even students with classes in a few hours turned up at the airport for a glimpse of Schooling.
St Andrew's Junior College students Makarios Tan and Tiah Jhan Rei, as well as Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Rudy Halim, arrived at the airport on the last train on Sunday night. They have classes at 7.40am, but decided to come to the airport to witness a momentous moment in Singapore history.
"I think this will motivate people interested in sports to go one step further. It's a historical, monumental step for Singapore's sports culture," said Tan.