Singapore's Joseph Schooling Swam For Perak In 2006. What Does This Mean For Us?

Everyone wants to ride on his success.

Cover image via Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

21-year-old swimmer Joseph Schooling made history on Saturday, 13 August, by winning Singapore's first ever Olympics gold for the 100m butterfly event beautifully

Just a few days after Joseph's victorious outing at Rio, there has been one question playing in most Malaysians' minds — could have Singapore's first ever Olympic gold been Malaysia's?

First things first, Malaysians are rather excited because Joseph Schooling has some relations with Malaysia

Joseph Schooling with his mother May after winning the men's 100m butterfly final in Brazil.

Image via KEVIN LIM, CHEW SENG KIM/Straits Times

For starters, Joseph Schooling's mother is a Malaysian.

Joseph's mother, May, is a Singapore permanent resident and has lived there for more than 30 years. The 61-year-old hails from Ipoh, Perak and used to represent her home state for tennis.

Joseph's aunt, Yim Kam Ling, showing a photograph of her nephew on her smartphone.

Image via Marcus Pheong/Malay Mail Online

Meanwhile, Joseph's aunt Yim Kam Ling still lives in Ipoh.

According to Yim, Joseph would visit Ipoh when he had long breaks.

"How I wish I could have been there with him in Rio. But even though we were not there in person, we were with him in spirit," the proud aunt was quoted as saying by Malay Mail Online.

Discovering Joseph's link to our country got most Malaysians excited, but one particular article that has resurfaced on social media recently stirred more emotions.

This is the article in question:

Image via The Star Online

An article from The Star Online dated 30 April 2006 states that Schooling, who was representing Perak, had beaten fellow Malaysian swimmer Daniel Bego's record then, en route to winning the 50m butterfly and 100m backstroke in the Group 4 category (for swimmers aged 10 and below) of Milo-Pram National Junior Age-Group Aquatics Championship at Paroi Swimming Complex more than a decade ago.

Image via The Star Online

It went on to report that Schooling had had also set two new meet records in the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly then, on top of the 50m butterfly and 100m backstroke events.

Could this 'Perak schoolboy' be the Olympic gold medallist winner for Malaysia that had slipped away?

Yim said that her nephew would swim at the Ipoh Royal Golf Club, the family’s pool and at Ipoh City Council swimming complex when he visited them.

Additionally, if the current rules for the Milo-Pram competition are the same as 10 years ago, there could be a simple explanation to this.

It is likely that Joseph Schooling participated as a Singaporean but represented Perak in 2006 Milo-Pram competition as invitations to participate in the competition are extended to ASEAN, Asian and Asia-Pacific Federation.

A search on Google also revealed that a New Straits Times article referred to 'Joseph Schooling' as a Singaporean teammate to the then 11-year-old Lau Zheng Rong from Perak.

At the moment, there is no surety on whether or not the said Joseph Schooling in question is the same with the Joseph Schooling, the Rio Olympics gold medallist; but based on the clues so far, they are most likely the same person, though this would also mean that Joseph was never a Malaysian, as some have speculated.

In fact, Joseph's father, Colin Schooling, declared in 2014 that his son is a true son of Singapore, dismissing speculations that his son was a 'foreign talent'.

Everyone seems to want a little share of Joseph's warranted newfound fame, with some even getting severe backlash on their attempts to ride on his golden success:

Joseph Schooling greets Primary 1 and 2 students from ACS (Junior).

Image via Mark Cheong/Straits Times

Sponsors, corporations and even some Singaporean government officials have extended their congratulations and at the same time, tried to hitch a ride on Joseph’s success.

However, some of them were criticised for their cheap attempts to try and hijack Joseph's groundbreaking success. This included a post by Singapore Airlines (SIA).

Gold medallist Joseph Schooling, pictured in the back row, flanked by Singapore Airlines staff in the post, which has since been deleted.

Image via Singapore Airlines

In a post on the airline’s Facebook page, the swimmer can be seen standing at the back of the photo, with the airline’s staff in front of him.

SIA has been criticised for making a big deal about Singapore’s first-ever Olympic gold medal winner... but relegating him to the back of their photos on social media.

Singapore Airlines has since deleted the much-criticised post, which attracted hundreds of angry comments from Joseph' fans.

Meanwhile, a Singaporean identified as Nicholas Lee posted an open letter that highlighted how Joseph owes no one for his record-breaking victory in the Rio Olympics, except for himself and his own parents

"As a nation, a people, a country, a government, and as individuals, we did almost nothing to help Schooling get to the gold medal," Lee said on a Facebook post.

"Very little of our money went to training him, and providing him with the necessary support, compared to the millions we lavish on 3rd class athletes from China and elsewhere. Not only did we not support him, we almost killed his career by making him do NS (National Service)," added the pensioner, while criticising the ruling Singaporean government, who now allowed Joseph to defer NS until after the 2020 Games.

Lee went on to describe how everyone rushed to claim credit although they did "not earned the right to claim the limelight with him" as none of them gave him the support when he needed them.

"If his mother May did not fight Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to get his deferment, he might still be in the SAF now doing NS. Only a Malaysian fought for him, which was his mum," the letter concluded.

Joseph Schooling's success comes with blood, sweat, tears and money. Read more about his inspiring journey here:

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