Why It Matters

Schooling dives into giving back

For his second homecoming since winning Singapore's first Olympic gold at the Rio de Janeiro Games, Joseph Schooling made it a point to include charity events in his packed schedule.

The 21-year-old swim star has two events with Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. He is also working with some partners to auction autographed memorabilia for charity.

Today, he is reading his children's book, From Kid To King, to children and signing 23 limited edition copies of his other book, Schooling Joseph - which have all been pre-sold, raising $28,000 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF).

Beyond raising awareness for his selected beneficiaries, Schooling is using the platform his Olympic gold has given him to send a strong message about giving back to society. For that, he should be commended.

People follow celebrities and are influenced by them. He understands that, saying at a Make-A-Wish Foundation event on Saturday that he hopes "others in a similar position as me will be inspired to do the same".

Cynics might say that these charity events have to do with an athlete carefully shaping his public persona. Yet, even before last year's SEA Games, before his celebrity stock skyrocketed, he had pledged to raise $50,000 for STSPMF, starting with a $5,000 donation of his own.

As he told ST, he was not always so enthused about giving back, adding that it "came with maturity".

"One day I woke up and realised how privileged I was and how I needed to start giving back, especially when you live in the States and see many homeless people on the streets," said the University of Texas student.

He could have shelved all the events this week to spend time with his parents, whom he sees only two or three times a year. Yet, he didn't. At a time when sport often makes headlines for the wrong reasons, it is nice to see the country's most popular athlete do something good - apart from winning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Schooling dives into giving back'. Subscribe