Schooling to young athletes: "Dream big and reach for the stars"
That's the advice of million-dollar man Schooling to aspiring athletes
Tan Howe Liang needed help to walk into the ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental last night for the Singapore National Olympic Council's (SNOC) Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme (MAP) presentation ceremony.
His knees are clearly nowhere near as strong as they were when he lifted a total of 380kg over his head to win Singapore's first Olympic medal - a silver.
Those knees lifted Singapore onto the world stage in Rome that September day in 1960, and they have done so much more - they lifted generations of athletes onto his shoulders.
Last night's ceremony was a gathering to witness Joseph Schooling receive backslaps and a $1 million reward for his gold-medal feat in Rio de Janeiro - but it was really about inspiration.
Schooling's Olympic dream was kindled by his grand-uncle Lloyd Valberg - a high jumper who was a representative at Singapore's first shot at the Olympics (London, 1948), and his path to the Olympics was paved by the likes of Tan and others before him.
And now, the 21-year-old Schooling is a giant in his own right.
He has gone where no Singaporean has gone before, made the world stand up for the Majulah Singapura, and his shoulders will now provide the platform for younger ones to reach even farther.
Schooling's award will see youngsters get a boost as $200,000 of his reward will go to the Singapore Swimming Association.
"I'm sure it'll go to bettering young swimmers in Singapore, that's all we can ask for," said Schooling, who already has words for younger aspirants following in his wake.
"It's going to be a long and arduous journey but, as long as your goals are set, your priorities are set, you'll be fine."
But Schooling's work of inspiring started long before last night, it started even before he landed in Rio de Janeiro, but it was perhaps that race of Aug 12 that sparked the most fires.
"I had my first race the next morning, but I had to stay up to watch his final. After that I couldn't sleep - I was super motivated - watching him made me want to win my race," said Timothee Yap, who ran in the 100m in Rio.
But 22-year-old Yap is acutely aware that it is no walk in the park trying to follow in Schooling's footsteps.
"Believing that you can do it is one thing. He is talented, he has committed parents, and he is also in a training environment that constantly challenges him," said Yap, who has two immediate targets - making it to the podium at the 2017 South-east Asia Games, and giving back to the sport.
Sailor Sara Tan also remembers the race, and the goosebumps that came from watching her fellow Rio Olympian make history.
"It was amazing what he did. He is already an inspiration to us athletes, and I can imagine how much more belief he inspires in kids who want to be athletes," the 26-year-old told The New Paper.
"And now that he has got gold, young ones will believe that they can do it, too.
"That glass ceiling is broken, and it'll be great to see just what this next generation of athletes will do."
Last night, Schooling also received the Meritorious Service Medal (Pingat Jasa Gemilang) from Minister of Community, Culture and Youth, Grace Fu, a National Day award for his 50.39-second Olympic record in the 100m butterfly final.
Even with $1 million in his pocket, and a National Day award on his chest, this sporting giant was not about to lose his head in the clouds.
His words of advice to young athletes were chosen from his own playbook that got him to the top of the Olympics.
"Stay grounded," said Schooling, offering his shoulder for the next generation to stand on.
"Dream big and reach for the stars."