SEA Games 2017, Aug 19-30: 2 days to go

Swimming: Assembly fervour moves Joseph Schooling

Pupils at Yuhua Primary School relishing the chance to exchange high-fives with Olympic champion Joseph Schooling yesterday.
Pupils at Yuhua Primary School relishing the chance to exchange high-fives with Olympic champion Joseph Schooling yesterday.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Joseph Schooling's gold-medal swim at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics may have taken place more than a year ago, but his feat has not been easily forgotten, especially by his young supporters.

Yesterday, the swim star was at Yuhua Primary School for an event held to show support for Singapore's SEA Games-bound athletes, and he was greeted by a hall of screaming, delighted pupils.

The 22-year-old admitted being touched by their support, saying: "The Olympics happened a year ago but their continuous support for me really touches my heart because that's not normal.

"You don't see kids go that crazy for assembly. I know... I've been in primary school before."

More than 1,000 children from Yuhua, along with student representatives from Shuqun Secondary School and Crest Secondary School, were present for the event organised in conjunction with Milo Singapore and the South West Community Development Council.

The excitement reached fever pitch when Schooling walked around the hall, taking questions from the pupils. Some of them fell over as the crowd surged towards the swim star, but no one was hurt.

The Olympic gold medallist faced questions ranging from his favourite subject in primary school (science) to what music he listens to before races (alternative rock and house music).

"To see them so excited and passionate about a sporting achievement, it makes me feel real good about what I've achieved and how far the sporting scene has come in Singapore," he said.

Primary 4 pupil Li Yingliang asked Schooling how he had dealt with nerves before the latter's gold-medal swim in Rio.

The 10-year-old is also a swimmer, and admitted he feels very nervous before his own races.

"Joseph told me to just be calm, take deep breaths and block out all other thoughts except about the race," he told The Straits Times.

Schooling was presented with a board filled with heartfelt messages from students.

Said Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Education, and Mayor of South West District, who was the event's guest of honour: "Each and every SEA Games athlete is a wonderful and inspiring role model for our students.

"This is why we have teamed up with Yuhua Primary School and Milo for this very wonderful sending-off event."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline 'Assembly fervour is a different hall of fame for Schooling'. Print Edition | Subscribe