It’s my turn to be a normal guy, says Joseph Schooling upon retirement

Joseph Schooling announced his retirement on social media on April 2 before hosting a media session at the Chinese Swimming Club later in the morning. - ST

SINGAPORE: Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first and only Olympic champion, first started thinking about hanging up his goggles when he woke up one day and stopped feeling the same kick he once had about competing.

The 28-year-old announced his retirement on social media on Tuesday (April 2) before hosting a media session at the Chinese Swimming Club (CSC) later in the morning.

In a cosy setting at the CSC grand ballroom that resembled a chinese wedding dinner, Schooling held a session to talk about his decision and future: “No question is off limits, let’s have fun.”

Looking fit in a black polo tee and cream-coloured pants, he admitted “emotions were running high” as he openly addressed questions about his career, Olympic gold, inspiring the next generation, national service, and his cannabis use.

He said: “I don’t like the connotation of retirement because it sounds like there’s nothing to look forward to next as an athlete. I want to be the best in my field, and I will continue putting the same amount of effort, dedication, and focus in the next phase of my career.”

When asked if politics is in the equation for him, a beaming Schooling said: “Never say never, but for now I’m focused on playing golf, my venture capital, my swim school and helping out mum at the office. It’s my turn to be a normal guy.”

Armed with an outstanding dolphin kick, driven by an Olympic dream, and backed by his parents’ unconditional love, Schooling was just 14 when he left Singapore to enrol in The Bolles School in Florida, the United States, where he trained with Olympic medallist Sergio Lopez.

Two years later, aged just 16, he swam in his first SEA Games in 2011 and won golds in the men’s 50m and 200m butterfly, for which he would also meet the London 2012 Olympic qualifying time.

He continued to plunder medals in the pool, becoming the first Singaporean swimmer to finish on the podium at at the Commonwealth Games and the world championships. He was also named Sportsman of the Year a record six times.

But it would be his stunning performance at the Rio 2016 Olympics that captured the imagination of the world when he beat the legendary Michael Phelps to win the men’s 100m butterfly final in a then-Olympic record time of 50.39 seconds.

Sandwiching his crowning moment at Rio 2016 were his first and final Olympics in 2012 and 2021. He finished last in his 200m butterfly heat in London 2012 after his goggles and cap were not on the list of approved equipment, while he also suffered the same fate in Tokyo 2020 due to poor form.

He also had to cope with the death of his father Colin in November 2021, and a year later he was embroiled in a drug controversy after he and fellow swimmers Teong Tzen Wei and Amanda Lim admitted to consuming cannabis overseas.

At the end of the media session, a local breakfast spread of nasi lemak, roti prata, soya bean and fruits was served. Notably absent was Schooling’s favourite fried carrot cake, but he will now have more time to indulge. - The Straits Times/ANN

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