The boy is mine

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The Schooling effect

While some people may obsess over Joseph Schooling's new tattoo or favourite fried carrot cake, this Olympic victory has had a far more profound effect for the swimming fraternity here.

Take 11-year-old Anlon Loh, who says Schooling has rekindled a dream.

Anlon, a competitive swimmer at Aquarian Aquatic Swim School, was with the crowd at Changi Airport on Monday to welcome the champion home.

His mother, Madam Lina Xiao, 41, says: "He got emotional and screamed when he saw Schooling. He later said that he was so happy, he couldn't control his feelings."

His attitude has also changed.

"I've never seen him this motivated, and he wants to train even harder. Kids his age tend to be lazy but meeting Schooling changed all that," she adds.

Former national swimming coach David Lim says it is important for local swimmers to see a Singaporean take the top step of the Olympic podium.

"To say that the swimmers are all very inspired now is an understatement," he tells TNPS. "Swimmers have all been told at least once in their lives that their dreams are too far-fetched and out of reach, but now Schooling's victory has opened doors for them."

The "Schooling effect" extends to swimming schools as well. Many say they have seen a sudden spike in interest.


Mr Lim reveals that calls to inquire about coaching services doubled over the weekend that Schooling clinched his gold medal, compared to previous weeks.

"Every weekend, we have been getting a certain number of calls, but last weekend, there was a big surge. It has never happened before," says the founder of Swimfast Aquatic Club and technical director of the Chinese Swimming Club.

On Thursday, The Straits Times reported that swimming schools here have received between 20 and 200 per cent more calls.

But while enrolment rates might increase because of Schooling's win, coaches believe that parents should also be inspired by how Schooling's parents, Colin and May, supported him over the years.

Mr Lim, who used to coach Schooling, says: "Parents here are afraid of losing out. When their children are caught out by examinations and grades, the first thing to go is sports.

"As a coach, I would really appreciate parents who do not worry about grades and allow their children to put their heart and soul into swimming."

Parents should look to Colin and May as good role models, adds Aquarian Aquatic's director Elsie Chiang.

Ms Chiang, also a former national team manager, says: "The best thing to come out of all this is parents now see that by being committed to their children's dreams, it is possible to fulfil those dreams."

A day in their life

Inspired by S'pore's first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling, parents have been calling up swimming schools to enrol their kids for competitive swimming lessons. NG JUN SEN (ngjunsen@sph. finds out that the kids are in for a long slog

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Gold medal dreams a family affair

Inspired by S'pore's first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling, parents have been calling up swimming schools to enrol their kids for competitive swimming lessons. NG JUN SEN ( finds out that the kids are in for a long slog

It is 4.45am and grandmother Lye shakes sisters Genevieve and Madeline Lye, 15 and 13, from their slumber.

The girls hesitate for a minute, rub their eyes and shake off their gold-medal dreams before starting a routine they have been following for a decade now.

Yes, the Lye sisters were just four when they started working on their dream to become competitive swimmers.

While other teenagers might gripe about the early hours, both girls - competitive swimmers at Swimfast Aquatic Club - are eager to get going.

Now they say there is an extra spring in their steps, thanks to Joseph Schooling's gold medal and Olympic record swim.

Genevieve tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I am really motivated by him. A win by a Singaporean makes this feel worth it, that victory is all very possible for us."

Being a competitive swimmer is a family affair, and sporting excellence means everyone in the Lye family has to be involved and committed.

Much like Schooling's parents.

Genevieve and Madeline's grandmother is responsible for waking them up.


But even before the girls' early reveille, their mother, Madam Jennifer Lye, 41, is already preparing breakfast and loading their schoolbags in the car.


Before school, their first stop is the pool for the morning session. They have another training session in the afternoon, after school.

The girls train in the morning only on Saturdays, and they get a break on Sunday. Mrs Lye's job includes driving the girls to their home, school and the swimming pool.

"I need to be around to support them, drive them around. You can't expect them to have this kind of schedule and take the bus," she says.

Because their daily schedule is so tight, Genevieve and Madeline eat and study in the car. Every minute counts.

At the pool, Mrs Lye unfolds her chair that she brought from home and watches the girls closely as they swim more than 5km daily.

And she is not the only parent at the pool.

Like the other parents, Mrs Lye doesn't distract herself with a book or tablet computer to help her pass the time.

She says she enjoys watching the girls swim.

"Sometimes, they ask me after the session, 'Mummy, did you see me swim so fast today?' If I didn't watch them, I wouldn't know what to say," she says.

Mrs Lye says it is not a case of parents forcing their dreams on their children, as she is not a competitive swimmer herself.

"Genevieve started swimming to help treat her asthma problem while Madeline started afterwards to follow her 'jie jie' (Mandarin for big sister)," she says.

"When Genevieve won a competition for children years ago, she wanted to start training competitively."


Little did she expect that her daughter's decision would mean trading her life for a hectic daily schedule.

Their father, who works at a supermarket chain, is the sole breadwinner of the family.

Genevieve says: "Dad is always working hard and late into the night to pay for all of this."

But the sacrifices have paid off as Genevieve has broken meet records for 13- to 14-year-olds in the 800m and 1,500m freestyle events.

She is also going to Paris, Berlin and Moscow next week to represent Singapore in the Fina World Cup.

All of this with the family's own money, as they do not have any sponsor or scholarship.

Mrs Lye says: "Swimming can get really expensive. Training costs $200 a month (for each person) and that is not counting the swimming costumes, sports therapy sessions and massages."

She says she has not totalled up the amount spent so far.

There is little space in their five-room flat in Boon Lay to display all the medals and trophies too, so Mrs Lye packs them away in boxes.

Watching her mother after an exhausting day, Genevieve tells TNPS: "I know that she sacrifices a lot to send us here and there. I know it isn't easy.

"She motivates me to swim harder, and I want to do well to not disappoint her. I feel grateful and lucky that she is here."

What we say: What next after the Schooling effect?

It's hard to believe that Schooling Fever is only a week old.

The good thing is that I finally have a positive "where were you when..."

story, rather than one relating to some disaster.

So what next?

Now that swimming has been "legitimatised", you can imagine more than a few pushy parents wanting their kids to start on that (potentially) golden path.

But should it be the parents pushing?

Unless you do want to send your kids off to some brutal training camp, as seen in videos of child gymnasts in China, there should be some free will.

And as much as I wish my parents had forced me to learn the piano, or continue that brief dalliance with the trumpet - oh, the fun I would be at parties - I'm happy they supported my passion for design.

Not that it was a passive interest from their side. They still pushed, and were blunt when the results were less than satisfactory.

But they let me find that path.

And let's not forget that no skill is just arrived at.

The brand of equipment or name of the school has little bearing if the hours are not put in. It takes time to hone a skill and drive to push the limits.

Yet this talk of drive to succeed should not be kept to the young.

Everyone needs to find that new pursuit, no matter what his or her age is. Find that spark, and you can find that drive.

For me, I'll just give my neighbours fair warning: There is a trumpet I have been eyeing for some time now.

Which songs get Joseph Schooling's head in the game?

Prior to a race, decorated swimming champ Michael Phelps has been said to get his adrenaline pumping to tunes by US rappers Eminem and Young Jeezy. 

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud opts for a slower beat with Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall by English rock act Coldplay while his team mate Aaron Ramsey builds up his energy with Arabella by English rock band Arctic Monkeys. 

What gets Singapore's first Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling fired up and raring to go before a competition?

He reportedly listens to diverse genres of music before he plunges into the pool and these include house, rap and alternative rock music.

A look at his Spotify playlist reveals that his go-to jams include anything from Breaking Benjamin's The Diary Of Jane, Calvin Harris' Feel So Close and Drowning Pool's Bodies to Kanye West and DJ Khaled's Cold and Desiigner's Panda.

We have put together a compilation of his pre-race tunes on a new Spotify playlist, entitled 50:39, as an ode to his historic Olympic record timing.



(Yes, it's 50 mins 39 seconds long.)

Follow The New Paper on Spotify here.


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