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Singapore's Joseph Schooling returns home a hero


08-19-2016 00:44 BJT

Full coverage: 2016 Rio Olympics

Singapore has achieved a lot as a young nation, but when it comes to sports, the city-state, that has one of the highest GDP per capita had never reached the top.  That is, until Joseph Schooling brought back the country’s first Olympic gold from Rio. It’s a dream comes true for Schooling, his family and for Singapore.

A heroic homecoming. After winning his country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal, 21-year-old Joseph Schooling has become a household name in Singapore. It’s a victory for the entire nation. After gaining a silver in 1960, Singapore experienced a 48-year Olympic medal drought. The spell was later broken by the controversial foreign sports talent scheme. Before Rio, all Singapore had garnered were two silvers and two bronzes. Few Singaporean dreamt of an Olympic gold from a homegrown athlete. But Joseph Schooling did and he did from a very young age.

"I had the dream and aspiration to be Olympic champion and world champion, to be the best in the world when I was six or seven. So I’ve been, that’s always been my goal, to be the best in the world. And I’ve trained everyday to try to put myself in that position and I’m very lucky and thankful you know that I can actually pull that off," Schooling said.

Here is where it all started. In the swimming pool behind me, young Joseph used to take plunges from that diving board, and trained diligently from the age of four. His first coach Vincent Poon says he has never seen a student like Joe, who was always punctual and very committed from a young age.

When the world watched in amazement when Joseph Schooling beat his idol -American swim legend- Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly in Rio, Schooling and his family know this was no coincidence. He once said Michael Phelps inspired him to be the best, and here in Singapore, he has now become an inspiration himself.

"Hopefully a win like this can bring more public, can cultivate a bigger sporting culture in our small country and hopefully this kinda put Singapore on other people’s map from other country. I just hope that what I did would inspire other people to take up sports. That would be good," Schooling said.

At the aquatic center, a young swimmer asks Joseph what the secret recipe is for his success. The boy who dreamt to be the world’s best from age six and worked towards that goal for the past 15 years laughs and says there is none, just hard work and dedication.

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