There were no tears, there was no shouting or screaming or wild fist pumps, just an unmistakable smile of satisfaction.
Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first ever Olympic Gold medal on Friday, with his victory in the 100m Butterfly, setting a new Games record with his time of 50.39 seconds.
TeamSG swimmer Joseph Schooling during the Victory Ceremony for the Men's 100m Butterfly. Photo: Sport Singapore
A new chapter in Singapore sport was opened with Joseph beating Michael Phelps, South Africa's Chad Le Clos and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh who incredibly all ended in a three way tie for second place, each of them touching out in 51.14 seconds.
The crowd applauded, the Singapore flags inside the Rio Aquatics Centre waved and back home a whole nation celebrated.
And Joseph took it all in his stride. Calm, assured, with poise but also with pride, the 21-year-old dealt with the attention, the celebration and all the well-wishers with the same unflappable style he showed throughout the build-up to his greatest night.
He hardly had time to collect his thoughts on leaving the pool than he was running the gauntlet of television interviews with stations from around the world peppering him with questions. That did not faze him either.
TeamSG swimmer Joseph Schooling (right) with combined Silver medallists (L to R) Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh. Photo: Sport Singapore
“I need to chill by myself, let things sink in, realise what I have done and then I will have a better understanding of what I have accomplished,” said Joseph, who nonetheless delivered articulate thoughts about his road to success.
Then came the medal ceremony with Schooling proudly stood atop the podium while the trio of silver medallists held hands in an unusual - and moving - recognition of their togetherness.
Watching in the stands, the Team Singapore delegation enjoyed the sight of a compatriot and their country being honoured for their Gold medal achievement with the national flag raised the highest.
“It's amazing, the first time the Singapore anthem is played at an Olympic Games and to see our flag. To see three other great countries, great swimming countries, together with us, it was just an incredible feeling,” said Singapore’s IOC Vice-President Ng Ser Miang.
“A first Gold medal for Singapore. It will inspire a whole generation of young Singaporeans. You can see from the reaction back home, Singapore is so proud of this great moment. He beat three other great champions,” he added.
(From L to R) Laszlo Cseh, Chad Le Clos, Michael Phelps and TeamSG swimmer Joseph Schooling. Photo: Sport Singapore
Having walked around the pool, to appreciative applause from the crowd and finding time for a chat with Phelps, Joseph and his rivals headed into the press conference and dealt with all the questions from the world’s media.
"It's been a hard road, I've done something that no one in our country has done before. I've received a lot of support and that's phenomenal,” said Joseph, who throughout the evening was quick to praise his backers, his family and his coaches.
Phelps was full of praise, telling the reporters that the sky is the limit for the Singaporean who took the title he has won in the last three Olympic Games.
“As big as he wants to dream, as hard as he wants to work to be able to do whatever is in his head,” said Phelps, when asked just how successful Joseph could be in the future.
TeamSG swimmer Joseph Schooling (right) with childhood idol Michael Phelps (left). Photo: Sport Singapore
The conference over, Joseph walked up into the stands to greet the Team Singapore delegation which had gathered to celebrate.
There was a hug with his mother May, a congratulatory handshake and warm conversation with President Tony Tan Keng Yam and friendly chats with Singaporean sports officials. Joseph put the Gold medal around the neck of the President and then took a phone call from his father Colin, who had watched the race back home in Singapore.
And then he was off, heading out of the arena to hopefully get a good night’s sleep.
Before he wakes up for the first time as an Olympic champion. Singapore’s first Olympic champion.
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