SINGAPORE: After swimmer Joseph Schooling announced on Wednesday (March 1) his withdrawal from this year’s South East Asia (SEA) Games, Singaporeans expressed their support for the athlete, with one writing, “I don’t think he owes anyone anything.”
“This was not an easy decision, but I am currently not at the level at which I hold myself to perform. Ultimately, my country comes first before individual accolades,” Schooling, 27, said in a statement.
He also wrote that he is giving his spot to “teammates who have been getting themselves ready and considered for selection while I cheer from home and focus on my Navy duties.”
Singapore’s first Olympic gold medallist for the 100-meter butterfly event in 2016 has had a long athletic career, having won numerous medals and broken records on national, regional and Olympic levels for over a decade.
Schooling is a well-beloved figure by many Singaporeans, who also extended support toward him in September of last year after he was found to have taken cannabis overseas in May 2022 when he was on short-term disruption from full-time National Service (NS) to train and participate in the SEA Games.
“I don’t think he owes anyone anything. He’s done more for the country than most people would. He can do as he wishes,” wrote one Singaporean commenting on a CNA report on Schooling’s announcement.
Others remembered his previous accolades.
“29 times SEA games gold + 1 time Olympic gold medalist. Well done. Time to be a mentor,” wrote another.
“You are always our first Gold Olympics medalist,” one said.
Another netizen weighed in, “He is still young. Even if he decides to retire from competitive swimming, he will still have many supporters for the next phase of his life. Hopefully, he does not fade away into irrelevance.”
Others addressed Schooling directly.
“Well done…mate ..stay true to yourself… Ignoring what others are saying,” wrote one.
One commenter opined, “He IS an Olympic Champion, no one can take that away. Now it is up to him if he wants to take the pain of training and discipline. You have to give credit to athletes like the Quah siblings for having maintained that competitive edge all these years.”
Last year, Schooling was issued a formal letter of warning by the Ministry of Defence “informing him of the serious consequences of drug abuse meted out to all SAF personnel, who may be sentenced up to nine months detention in the SAF Detention Barracks.”
The athlete apologised immediately afterwards, citing “a moment of weakness after going through a very tough period of my life”.
Mr Colin Schooling, 73, the swimmer’s father, died in November 2021 at the Singapore General Hospital with his family by his side.
“Colin was a giant among men. He would always tell you what he thought, no holds barred. We will miss him tremendously. The Schooling family would like to thank everyone for their support and words of comfort during this tough time”, a family spokesperson said.
Mr Schooling had been battling liver cancer before his demise. /TISG
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