SINGAPORE: It was a scene greeted with loud cheers and enthusiastic waving of flags. As performers at this year’s National Day Parade climbed a giant mountain meant to symbolise Singapore’s efforts to achieve success, the cameras panned to reveal two familiar figures dressed in red, planting a Singapore flag at the top of the mountain: Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu.
The two national swimmers made their unbilled appearance in the sixth act of the show, which celebrated the nation’s achievements in various fields. But behind the surprise was a large amount of forward planning: Ahead of their appearance, Yip and Schooling said they were approached by parade organisers “a long time ago”.
“I was in the US, and they contacted my parents, and my mum asked me,” said Schooling. “This is a special day for everyone, and it’s a no-brainer. I immediately said yes.”
“I’ve always enjoyed the songs and atmosphere in the parade, so as long as I didn’t have any competitions, I said sure, I’d be willing,” Yip said. “There weren’t many rehearsals and I only came here once for a fitting, so it wasn’t that much of a hassle.”
"I GET TO DO SOMETHING FOR MY COUNTRY, NOT JUST IN THE POOL"
Both Yip and Schooling are first-time participants in the NDP, and Yip admitted to feeling “a bit nervous” ahead of her segment.
“I’ve only watched it as a spectator in the stands, and the experience as a spectator and being part of the parade is really different,” she said. “As a spectator, you just have to sit there and enjoy, but being part of the parade means people are watching you instead.”
“I’ve always been a very proud Singaporean whenever I go and compete overseas, especially when Majulah Singapura is being played, and I see the flag being raised up,” she added. “I love being Singaporean, I love Singapore, so being able to be part of the parade is really special.”
Schooling, meanwhile, recounted some of his fond memories of previous NDPs he attended as a spectator. “I love planes, and I remember one NDP in the old National Stadium when I was still pretty young,” he recalled. “These commandos just dropped down from the roof, and that was the coolest thing ever for me as a kid. I was going nuts.”
He added that “words can’t really describe” the feeling of being part of the parade.
“Not many people get the privilege and honour of being in the celebrations, in the parade, and it’s a very proud moment for both Pin Xiu and me,” he said. “One that for sure we'll remember for the rest of our lives.”
“It’s a very special moment, and I get to do something for my country, not just in the pool,” he added.
“I think that’s awesome.”