Schooling a legend in the making, says Patricia Chan

Schooling a legend in the making, says Patricia Chan

Friday, 20 May 2016

SINGAPORE — Swimming’s golden girl Patricia Chan boasts an illustrious career that is the envy of many: 39 gold medals at the South-east Asian Peninsular Games (Seap), eight medals from the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games, and five Sportswoman of the Year accolades over a decade of competitive swimming.

While there is no doubt that Chan is one of the best swimmers the Republic has ever produced, the 62-year-old believes Joseph Schooling is in a league of his own. With the Texas-based swimmer — who won a historic bronze medal for Singapore at last year’s World Championships — set for a big splash at the Rio Olympics in August, Chan can hardly wait to see him in action.


“He has written his own history ... ‘Stoked’, I can’t think of another word,” she said on the sidelines of the Pioneers, Legends and the Rise of World Class Aquathletes exhibition at the Kallang Wave Mall yesterday.

“Every time that boy does something, you hold your breath. We would love for Joseph to do spectacularly well, and we speak for Singapore in general.

“I know this boy, he will give his darndest, it’s his nature, and that’s what makes him a champion. He’s better than any one of us here has ever been, and we could all learn from him.”

Success in Rio will almost certainly earn Schooling a spot in the Singapore Aquatics Hall of Fame, which the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) Legacy Council — headed by Chan — is aiming to set up as part of their efforts to preserve and educate Singaporeans on the sport’s history and legacy.

The Schooling family story is also one that begs telling, as swim legend and Legacy Council vice-chairperson Ang Peng Siong added: “Joseph’s grandparents fought for Singapore in the war ... he was born here, grew up here and trained at the Singapore Island Country Club.”

Formed by the SSA in 2015, the Legacy Council also includes second vice-chairperson Tay Chin Joo — who was the youngest athlete to win a gold in swimming at the 1965 Seap Games — and member Nick Aplin, a National Institute of Education senior lecturer, as well as the Archives and Records Central Sub-Committee, and Resource Panel.

The council also aims to set up a Legacies and Learnings programme — a foundation to help the less privileged learn aquatic sports, and assist athletes who need financial help — and a virtual resource platform to archive all aquatic records and achievements.

They also want to give recognition to the people who have worked behind the scenes to ensure the athletes and the sport’s success, with the inaugural Outstanding Contribution Awards introduced at the SSA’s Awards and Appreciation Night last month to honour the hard work and contributions of these individuals.

Calling the Legacy Council’s plans a “work in progress”, Chan added that a book could be in the works in the future. “There is a lot of interest in swimming, and the success of swimming is linked to the Singapore story,” she said. “Singapore turned 50 last year ... the culture of swimming very much mirrors that of Singapore — of wanting to achieve, and putting yourself in the line of fire.

“For any sport to have a future, it must have a foundation. If you have roots, you can grow a tree.”

See the exhibition: Pioneers, Legends and the Rise of World Class Aquathletes

May 17 – 22: Kallang Wave Mall

May 23 – 29: Tampines Mall

May 30 – June 5: IMM

June 6 – 12: Westgate

June 24 – 26: OCBC Aquatic Centre

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