True blue Singaporean James Leong reveals why our Olympic feat is worth its weight in gold for not just rewriting the history books but helping Singaporeans believe again.
By: James Leong
When newly crowned national hero Joseph Schooling won our very first gold at the Olympics, I celebrated with the rest of Singapore like never before, but I suddenly felt all choked up and realised the win was so much more than sporting victory and broken records.
A teary Colin Schooling said this right after his son’s historic win: “This is all about love for your offspring. If you treasure them you can help them and believe in them. “
Three words stuck in my head and they were “belief”, “love” and “treasure.”
Joseph Schooling is a born and bred Singaporean athlete and to me he is Team Singapore. Winning at sports, especially at the Olympics, is truly a matter of the heart and you simply want one of your own to win. No rationale for the import of foreign players can change that. But his win also affirms the belief that we Singaporeans are good enough and can win on our own terms.
However, we are a “kiasu” bunch and perhaps some of us are afraid to believe. Joseph reminds us that we really have it in us if only we work at it, and his win helped us to believe in ourselves again.
When Majulah Singapura was sung on the world’s biggest stage, it wasn’t just about a tiny nation outgunning the likes of Phelps and Le Clos in the pool. It was about showing the world that Singapore was more than just a formidable business entity behind the Marina Bay Sands and the world’s best airport. The win showed Singapore’s heartbeat, grit and passion in the form of a 21-year-old young man, who dreamt the biggest of dreams beyond economic accolades and made it all happen on the world’s biggest stage at the Olympics.
Then there’s love. Colin revealed that his son was no one special, but he loved the sport.
Growing up in pragmatic Singapore meant getting an education and a job would always come above some of our deepest loves like the arts, music or sports. His win has reminded us that if we love something enough, we can pour our hearts into it and take the road less travelled, regardless of what others tell us.
Then there’s treasure. Colin and May Schooling have only one child and they gave it their all. The look on Mr. Schooling’s face right after the win was that of pure joy and probably relief. Joy that he helped his only child fulfill his lifelong dream and relief that his sacrifices paid off.
The world, including Singaporeans, saw all that and what Singapore is made of.
But I also know that with any celebration, even at this level, will be accompanied with brickbats on those who threatened to spoil it all when the elation of this win dissipates. However I want to savour this moment for as long as I can because I don’t know when anything like this will come by our shores again.
Instead I appeal to my Singapore friends that we all take a leaf from the Schooling family book to truly start believing, treasuring and loving ourselves a little bit more for the Singapore that we know and for the Singapore that we can truly become.
James Leong is a media consultant and a counsellor in training. He hopes for Singaporeans to be more questioning so they can live in a more progressive and compassionate society.