The Top Factor that made Joseph Schooling an Olympic Champ


So the our nation-state woke up this morning to the most wonderful news that Singapore swimmer, Joesph Schooling, 21, just won his Olympic gold medal for the 100m butterfly at Rio 2016 and beating his childhood idol-hero, Michael Phelps, while at it. Swimming Singapore is calling it “The Race That Stops the Nation.”

My Facebook feed ran countless articles covering this phenomenal moment when Schooling won Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal. He has indeed done Singapore very proud, as he has not only beaten the world’s best, but also demonstrated tremendously rare qualities in the process. The making of a winner, and a champion in the eyes of many proud Singaporeans.


“Schooling’s time smashed the Olympic Games record of 50.58s, clocked by Phelps at Beijing 2008. This is the first time at Rio 2016 that Phelps, who won the 100m butterfly at the past three Olympics, has been beaten.”

– Channel News (CNA)


Photo via Straits Times – Then: A young Joseph Schooling with Michael Phelps before the 2008 Olympics. Now: The pair after their 100m butterfly heat in Rio. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE SCHOOLING FAMILY, REUTERS

Just how much hard work, perseverance and grit he has put into the sport over the years to achieve his dreams, I can imagine. How surreal when it actually happened, and that intense emotion when the medal was finally placed in his hands.

“Reflecting on his race, Schooling said: “I went for it and I didn’t look back. I had some doubts. Everyone has doubts. It’s all about how you turn those doubts into positive moments. And I’m really glad that I could do that.” – CNA

It’s easy to say how “I want to be this”, “I can make it”, “I will do the impossible”. It’s something else to actually materialize these verbalization. I have learnt swimming since I was young, partly to combat childhood asthma, but that “passion” fizzled out after I failed to swim my way into the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA). I recalled the effort it took to wake up early on weekend mornings to go for swimming classes when I was a kid, rain or shine. Including the complaining and finding excuses to skip lessons. Ooops, my bad. I didn’t pay the price.

But Schooling did, while enjoying the entire process. I came across this little infographic below, that a friend just posted on Facebook (thanks, Kelvin), and instantly thought of Schooling. The top factor that made Joseph Schooling an Olympic champ: He belongs to The 2% Mindset, which pretty much sums up all the stories shared about him the past few hours after he accomplished his news-breaking milestone.


Impossible is nothing. And he (swims) the talk.

Doesn’t matter that he’s the shortest among the 8 finalists, doesn’t matter that the world expects some of the other swimmers to win instead. He did it against all odds.


I think it’s really admirable that at a very young age he had the maturity and ambition to realise what he wants to pursue and puts his words into action. How many of us even had such grand dreams when we were in primary school, much less being determined enough to put everything down to make them come true? Even in my adulthood, I have met quite a few individuals who were happy with “just getting by” and “surviving”. Nothing wrong with that, just sayin.

Schooling, however, has set his eyes on the Olympic Games and focused on it.

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. 

Joseph Schooling takes part in the Men's 100m Butterfly Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / François-Xavier MARIT

At 5 years old, he had already won several gold metals in swimming competitions.

At 6,  he had a conversation with his relatives about his grand-uncle Lloyd Valberg, a former high jumper and Singapore’s first ever Olympian at the 1948 London Games. That must have influenced him a great deal as he later told his father, Colin Schooling, that he wanted to go to the Olympics.

But I was most jolted by the fact that he woke Colin up at 4.30 in the morning asking to go for training. He was only 7. Juxtaposing this with my own attitude towards the sport is just embarrassing. Scrolling back up to the special 2% of the population part, he definitely ticks “living without limits”, “going for your dreams” and “excitement”.

I’m learning to move in his footsteps too.


Image credits: Yahoo Sports SG

There is no time for self-doubt. Supportive parents who fought their way alongside their son to fulfill his childhood Olympic ambitions made Schooling’s story all the more inspiring.

Above: A handmade sign has hung on an archway in the swimmer’s apartment in Austin for the past year. On it, the phrase “Remember Why You’re Here” runs across the bottom in red, bold and capitalised letters. Above it, the numbers 50.1 and 1:52 flank an image of the Singapore flag and the Rio 2016 logo.

“Those are the times he has to do at the Olympics to [finish on the] podium,” Colin explained. “So he reminds himself day in and day out; before he sleeps and before he gets up, he looks at it as a constant reminder of his journey.


ST Photos: Chew Seng Kim, Lim YaoHui

Congratulations, Joseph Schooling! Thank you for all the glory brought to Singapore – we’re all so proud of you. Thank you for being a role-model to all of us, and proving that Dreams DO come true, if we dare pursue them. Thank you for that incredible spirit yet preserving humility, respect and honour throughout.

Thank you for this amazing gift to Singapore, just a few days after our National Day.

Thank you for showing the world that “people from small countries can do extraordinary things”.

That, coming from a little kid with a dream.

Ending off with a sound clip of how Schooling felt immediately after his winning race at the mixed zone. “It’s been a hard road. The first guy through the door is always bloody,” he said.

For live updates, check out Schooling wins gold: Live Blog.


Love, everyday. Till next time!
Instagram / / @melissajaneferosha
Tweet / / @melissajanefrs


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