A date with Schooling's huge chest
He's a national hero, but his pecs are crushing
Let's get the shameless name-dropping out of the way immediately.
I've shared a lift with Wayne Rooney and a dressing room with a very naked Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander (don't ask).
David Beckham once winked at me, Gary Neville walked out on me and Harrison Ford threatened to smash my head with a piano (it's a long story).
So I don't get star-struck.
Or at least I haven't since my 11-year-old self panicked when meeting West Ham's World Cup-winning legend Martin Peters.
I tried to shake his hand but picked the wrong hand, the one holding his belongings, which made him think I was mugging him.
He shouted. I screamed. My childhood was scarred forever.
From that moment, I vowed to accept superstars in all walks of life as just regular people with irregular talents.
And then I met Joseph Schooling.
Or rather, I met the arms of his mother first.
If ever further proof were needed that behind every successful athlete stands a couple of equally committed parents, five minutes with May Schooling would do the trick.
"I've read you for years," she said. "I love your columns."
"I love your, son," I blurted out, which now sounds a bit weird.
Luckily, she never heard my muffled voice. It was lost in her warm embrace. Mrs Schooling doesn't shake hands. She gives out bear hugs. We met on Tuesday and I think she's still hugging my daughter.
She had invited us to have breakfast with Joseph Schooling at Tanah Merah Country Club, with a few other grateful children.
When I informed my daughter, she almost broke down in tears. "Joseph Schooling is the greatest man in Singapore," she cried.
I cleared my throat. "The greatest man in Singapore? Really?"
"You're right, Daddy," she said. "Joseph Schooling is the greatest man in the world!"
Over the hash browns and scrambled eggs, there was a distinct stirring in the crowd. Joseph Schooling was in the building.
As he made his way towards us, there was far too much whooping and drooling for my tastes.
But that's probably because most of it was coming from me.
"He's coming!" I shouted.
"All right, Daddy, calm down," my eight-year-old daughter replied.
"Oh, it's okay for you to get excited."
"I'm not a 41-year-old man. You're old enough to be Joseph's father."
"Yeah? You're old enough to be put up for adoption."
Within seconds of his arrival, Schooling was besieged with photo and autograph requests.
My daughter and I respectfully stepped back and gave him some space. Besides, we wanted to nab the last of the hash browns at the buffet.
But the Olympic gold medallist's impact on the crowd was extraordinary.
The little ones danced around the nation's sporting Pied Piper in a gloriously uplifting fashion.
Eyes widened and jaws dropped in the presence of their superhero. He looked like one, too.
"Look at the size of his chest," I exclaimed. "He could crack walnuts between those pecs."
"Dad, you're embarrassing yourself now."
Thankfully, Mrs Schooling was on her way over, ushering us towards her son.
"Joseph, come and meet Neil," she cried.
We shook hands.
"Hey, Joe," I said.
"Hey, Neil," he replied.
I giggled like a groupie at a Justin Bieber gig.
"He knows my name," I whispered to my daughter.
"That's because his mother just told him," replied my know-it-all daughter.
As Schooling stood beside me, I found myself pulling my shoulders back in a feeble attempt to shape my man-boobs into something vaguely resembling a defined chest.
It didn't work. In a green shirt, I looked more like a praying mantis.
But we posed for a photograph.
"Hey, thanks for coming, Neil," Schooling said.
I wanted to say, "you're welcome", but instead produced the kind of high-pitched squeak that Mickey Mouse might make if he sat on a spike.
Schooling really is a rare breed, an outstanding sportsman and an exemplary role model for youngsters like my daughter.
Singapore is truly lucky to have him.
But in the interests of my dignity, he needs to keep his chest well away from mine.