Expect more Schoolings
That's the promise from top swimming official Oon Jin Teik
They came with little flags, big flags, scarves - all red and white - and a chestful of hope, crowding around a screen set up in the OCBC Aquatic Centre's gymnasium.
Joseph Schooling was about to line up at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, some 16,000km away in Rio de Janeiro and, from Members of Parliament to coaches, swim parents and swimmers past, present and aspiring, nothing else mattered in the world.
Few noticed the woman on a wheelchair, pushing herself through the sea of red in that gym.
She was not hard to spot, rainbow pastel swimcap held tightly in place by goggles, and a beaming smile beneath it.
Yip Pin Xiu will be Singapore's flag- bearer at the Rio Paralympic Games next month and, in a symbolic hat-tip to Schooling's dedication to training, she brought the pool into that gym, her swimsuit still dripping from her exertions in the pool just beyond the backdoor of that gym.
"I'm going to go in front," she said, but it would not help her see history being made.
Every single person in that gym jumped up and raised their hands to the ceiling, even before Schooling touched the wall in Olympic record time of 50.39 seconds - to become the first Singaporean to win an Olympic gold medal in history.
But Yip's face still lit up, like that of Singapore's golden girl, Joscelin Yeo.
A PIPELINE FOR MORE SCHOOLINGS
"For me, the dream was always to get to the Olympics and win, but I never made it like Joseph did. We're so proud of him," said 40-time South-east Asia Games gold medallist, and Olympian, Yeo, who was in attendance with her husband and three young children.
"The support level has definitely changed for the better since the time I was swimming, but I'd rather not talk about myself."
"Even his National Service deferment is support from the Government, and we are thankful that he was able to do it with support from all over," added Yeo, a Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) vice-president who promised that Schooling's trailblazing act will be followed by a slew of moves to ensure that there will be more Olympic medallists like him.
"This is the start of the next 50 years of Singapore," said SSA secretary general Oon Jin Teik.
"Our sporting fraternity is on a journey of building a system - of hardware, software and people - to create a pathway for our young swimmers. We are extremely focused on the National Training Centre, and we want to create an eco-system with belief and clear policies to make more Josephs in the future."
Oon believes Schooling can do more for at least two to three more Olympics.
"He will win more medals - we don't know what colour - but the sky's the limit," he said.
MORE FROM LOCAL POOL
"Quah Zheng Wen is entirely homegrown, and he's got 10 good years ahead of him at least. He's shown that he's got the technique and fighting spirit to do more," said Oon of the 19-year-old who qualified for the 100m butterfly semi-finals in Rio.
Besides Schooling, Quah is the only other Singaporean man to have qualified for an Olympics semi-final.
Unlike Schooling who moved to the United States as a teenager, and now studies and trains at the University of Texas, Quah was put through local pathways.
"He's got a bright future, and he's proof that the local system can work," said Oon, who insisted that there are many factors that go into the building of a champion, with swim parents, the unsung heroes.
IT ALL STARTS AT HOME
"I think this will shock people into going to find out how and why this happened, and how we can replicate this.
And this is not down to just Joseph, his parents - Colin and May - are (sporting) elite-minded parents who have made many sacrifices that we don't see. They, too, are an inspiration."
And like their son Joseph, Colin and May Schooling have also inspired a generation of swim parents.
"My wife cried (watching the race), because this is personal. We are swim parents and we know some of what goes into helping a child do well, but I can't imagine how much more Colin and May have put in," said Noel Tan, whose 13-year-old son Zachary has been making waves in age-group competitions here.
"In simple terms, yes. Why can't my son do it? What Joseph has done makes (Olympic success) a dream-able dream.
"Someone from our backyard, breathing our air, eating our chicken rice has done it, and he did it in such style, too."
Zachary will not forget singing the Majulah Singapura during the medal presentation for Schooling.
"This inspires me to go into the pool now to train and, when I feel like giving up, I will remember this moment and continue to push past my limit."
"I was so proud singing the national anthem. It was the greatest moment of my life and I wasn't even swimming!" he exclaimed.
"We’re looking at the system to see how we can raise more champions like Joseph. This is a major shift (in the sport) that we are embarking on."
- Former swimmer Joscelin Yeo, who is also SSA vice president (Swimming)