SINGAPORE: Hours after he landed at Changi Airport to a rockstar reception, Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling was in Parliament with his parents and formally congratulated for his historic achievement at the Rio 2016 Games. Members of Parliament also gave him a long, standing ovation.
“I had goosebumps. It’s really nice and I’m glad I had that chance to be here today. It’s a privilege,” the 21-year-old said to the media on Monday afternoon (Aug 15).
Schooling, who is the first athlete in Singapore to be honoured in Parliament, added: “I think that’s pretty cool for me and my family to have that honour, and that chance for everyone to say the things that they said in front of us.”
Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, the president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, lauded Schooling for his tremendous hard work and sacrifice in chasing his Olympic dreams, and hailed his parents for supporting him every step of the way.
Schooling, who confessed to be jetlagged, managed to sneak in some precious shuteye before his appearance in Parliament. “The whole morning, we’ve been taking pictures and I just kind of want to be by myself. But it’s great to see my dad. I got home, just went to my room, took my computer out, chilled by myself, slept for a bit and then came over here.”
He even had time to grab some fried carrot cake that he had been craving for, at breakfast with loved ones at Tanah Merah Country Club. “We had breakfast - my family and (close friend) Zhen Ren’s family, my godparents, my cousins, and my nanny,” he said.
Schooling will spend about four days in Singapore and is expected to take part in school visits and an open-top bus victory parade. “I’m supposed to fly back (to the States) on Aug 19 at about 2.20am. But I need to ask my school whether I can stay until Sunday night or Monday morning, as there’s the National Day Rally at 6.45pm on Sunday,” he said.
According to the University of Texas sophomore, he has to return to school by Aug 21 but is in the midst of seeking clearance to return slightly later. “If I get that cleared, I’ll stay here until after the rally but right now, I’m scheduled to leave on the night of Aug 18 or Aug 19 morning. It’s pretty packed.
“I just want to catch some ZZZs right now, but maybe I’ll hang out with my parents in my alone time,” the only child said.
And though the attention has been overwhelming since he bested the world's top swimmers, including the legendary Michael Phelps, Schooling said he is lapping it all up. “I’ve been racing last week, so emotionally and physically, it’s been pretty draining. But then again, it’s been a fun ride and I’m enjoying every moment so far. It’s cool to be in this position. I’ve no regrets whatsoever and I’m just going along with the ride."