'They are doing their best': President Halimah calls for support for athletes after Schooling Olympic exit
SINGAPORE: President Halimah Yacob has called on Singaporeans to support their national athletes after “negative, hurtful comments” against Joseph Schooling emerged following his exit from the Tokyo Olympics.
“I feel sad looking at how unkind we can be towards each other,” Madam Halimah said in a Facebook post on Friday (Jul 30).
“One moment, we carry people to the highest pedestal with our words, yet the next moment we thrash them to the ground just because they fail to live up to our expectations.”
Mdm Halimah said that this unkindness has been seen recently in sports, highlighting the racial abuse hurled at three of England’s black footballers after the country’s loss in Euro 2020, and the abuse directed at Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka following her defeat at the Tokyo Games.
Swim star Schooling became the target of harsh criticism after his defence of his 100m butterfly crown ended in the heats in Tokyo.
“Joseph Schooling, who won a gold in the 2016 Olympic Games, did not qualify for the semi-finals of the 100m swimming event in the Tokyo Olympics.
“That was the start of negative, hurtful comments against him. We forgot that he had helped us to win an Olympic gold medal and brought glory to our own sports history,” the President said.
READ: Joseph Schooling fails to make semi-finals, will not defend 100m Olympic butterfly crown
READ: Outpouring of support will spur me on, says Joseph Schooling after Olympics exit
Mdm Halimah said that competing in the Olympics is no easy task, and that athletes who do so should be shown appreciation.
“We have to appreciate the tremendous sacrifices and stress that our athletes have to undergo. And the Olympics is not a walk in the park,” she said.
“They are competing against some of the world’s best athletes but they still tried their best. The least that we can do is to appreciate their effort and continue to encourage and support them.”
Mdm Halimah said that this event is a test of Singapore’s graciousness as a society.
“We talk incessantly about building a gracious, compassionate and caring society because we believe that a society thrives not just on economic growth alone,” she said.
“It’s easy to articulate these values, but a lot more difficult to practise it. We will be tested ever so often, like in this instance.
“So let’s be kind. Support our athletes wholeheartedly. They are doing their best.”
“A TRUE SPORTING LEGEND”
Other public figures have expressed their support for Schooling, and called on Singaporeans to support him, with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong describing him as a “true sporting legend”.
“Remember how it was on 12 August 2016? How Jo lifted all of us with his phenomenal win? Most of us will remember the day, where exactly we were and what we were doing - so momentous was the occasion, and how proud we were as a nation,” he said in a Facebook post late on Thursday.
“If we are to see this again, then we cannot support our athletes only when they do well. We must continue to support and cheer them on, get behind them, not only when they are up, but especially when they are down.”
READ: 'It's hard to swallow': Joseph Schooling disappointed by butterfly performance at Olympics, vows to fight harder
Mr Tong, who watched the heats live in Tokyo, said that Schooling’s place in history is assured, and he believes that both Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, who also competed in the 100m butterfly heats on Thursday, will return to race again.
“Am sure they will be back though, because it looks like Zheng has more in his tank, and Jo is too much of a champion to let it end this way,” he said.
“As for the rest of us - well, we have to continue to support them - Zheng, Jo, and all our sporting talents, even as they stumble and fail every so often.”
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also in Tokyo, said that while many Singaporeans are disappointed with the result, the biggest disappointment would be felt by Schooling himself.
“I know that for many, this will be disappointing. Especially as Jo is the defending champion and the record holder,” he said in a Facebook post after the race.
“Trust me, the disappointment is felt most by our athletes who expect more of themselves every day and work at trying to improve all the time.”
Coach Sergio Lopez Miro thanked Schooling for an “interesting journey” in an Instagram post with pictures of the two embracing.
“Over 10 years ago we crossed path in this beautiful life for something more than just being perfect. Never forget that perfection lies in the imperfection of life,” Lopez Miro said.
“Thank you for this amazing and interesting journey. Let's keep moving forward.”
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