Looking up to Joseph Schooling

We witnessed the spark of the young athlete as he interacted with his fans.

Joshua Tan Sheng Yao

Published: 22 June 2015, 12:00 AM

We last spoke to Joseph Schooling in 2012. At the time, the then 17-year-old was representing Singapore at the London Olympics, fresh from his four-medal haul at the 2011 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Today, Joseph is a household name, adorned with his successful win of nine gold medals from the recently concluded SEA games. We caught up with the 20-year-old during his exclusive motivational talk, held before his Meet and Greet event at Kallang Wave Mall last Wednesday.

More than 500 people waited in line to get autographs and selfies from the young athlete, who exchanged greetings and received many handwritten notes from his fans.


Joseph taking a selfie with his fans


After gaining widespread fame and winning more fans following his impressive achievements during the SEA games, we asked him how he deals with the extra attention he receives from his fans and the media.

“Their facial reactions, when you give them stuff, are really interesting. I thought those things only happened in Hollywood (or) on television. It makes me happy that I can put a smile on their face,” said Joseph, who laughed bashfully.

Although the University of Texas undergraduate appeared shy in front of the large crowd, he constantly smiled to the audience, and spoke eloquently as he answered questions from the media.


Ambassador Joseph Schooling giving his speech at the FINA Event


Beneath his cheerful disposition however, Joseph is an “aggressive swimmer” when he hits the pool.

“I hate losing, I really do…If I lose, I just go insane. I take that anger when I lose, and I translate it back to practice. I never want to feel that way again and I always tell myself I always want to win,” said Joseph, who was recently named the official ambassador of the Fina World Junior Championships, which will be taking place in Singapore from August 25 to 30.

Despite his recent successes during this year’s SEA games, Joseph is not taking a break. He has returned to the United States to train for the 2015 World Aquatic Championships, which will be held in Russia next month.

When asked about his target for the upcoming championships in Russia, he said that he has his eyes on making the top eight.

Joseph said: “Once you’re in the top eight, anything can happen. So I’m not going to think about medals, although I want a medal. My most important goal is the top eight, so I’m setting myself up for it.”


Joseph signing on the t-shirt of a pregnant member of Team Singapore


He also admitted that not everyone will be in tip top condition all the time, and acknowledged that tough times only make him stronger.

“When you feel bad, those are the moments that you need to work the hardest, because when you push through those moments, you’re going to break barriers,” he added.

The Singaporean swimmer, who just turned 20 last week, also managed to squeeze in a mini birthday celebration with his young fans during the Fina event.

His birthday wish for this year? He hopes to stay happy, healthy and continue to pursue swimming.


Singaporean swimmers celebrating Joseph’s birthday on stage


The star athlete added: “I’m on the right track, (and) in a good spot right now. I just want everything to stay the same and get better.”

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