Parental guidance from the Schoolings

COLIN and MAY SCHOOLING insist they have no parenting secrets in Schooling Singapore’s first Olympic champ — except to make Joseph eat his veggies since young

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WHO ARE THEY? COLIN, 68, and MAY SCHOOLING, 61, parents of Singapore’s first Olympic champ, Joseph Schooling. Colin, a businessman who runs a trading company, and May, said company’s finance director, have forked out an estimated $1.35 million over the years to pay for Joseph’s training and studies in the US, including selling a property in Australia in 2005. What do they plan to do with Joseph’s reward (about $650,000 after deductions) for his Olympic feat? “Joseph told me to use the money to pay off our loans. He’s very sweet. But we haven’t decided what to do with the money yet. We haven’t received it anyway,” May quips.

8 DAYS: You’ve done what no other Singaporean parent has done before: raise an Olympic champ. What are you like as parents?
MAY SCHOOLING: I don’t pressure him about anything, not even his studies. All I tell him is: “You study for yourself, not for Mummy. Whether you want to be a rubbish collector or to sweep the streets, it’s up to you. Mummy will still support you.” He studies hard. [He majors in Economics in University of Texas] and his average GPA is 3.75 [out of 4]. I did nag at him when he was younger, like how any other mother would nag at her kid. There’s nothing special in the way we brought him up. He is very serious when it comes to training, though. He may complain that he is physically tired but he never tells me he wants to give up. He doesn’t like to lose, that’s why.

Sending a 13-year-old kid to the US to pursue a swimming dream like you did is a risk that most Singaporean parents might not dare take.
MAY: It took a lot of budgeting on our part, but it’s fine. Since it’s something he wants, we will support him. How’s that non-Singaporean (Laughs)? Every parent — Singaporean or not — will be supportive of their own kid. Yes, sports may be something that doesn’t earn money, but if he likes it, what can I do? When he was eight, he was good at swimming, bowling, golf and table tennis. He was actually deciding between swimming and professional golf, but he went with swimming. It’s not good for your back if you start playing golf from young anyway. [But the bottomline is] always let the kid choose what they want to do, rather than force them into it. If it’s something they love, they will excel in it.

It must’ve been more than his love for swimming that made you confident enough to invest so much in his passion.
MAY: Money is necessary, but it’s not the [be all and end all]. The first year he was [in The Bolles School in Florida] alone, he was only 13. He was struggling in boarding school and he was crying quite a bit. But when we asked him if he wanted to come back, he’d always say no. It was tough for us too, but we wouldn’t cry in front of him lah. We really missed him at the beginning, but we had to encourage him to keep going.
COLIN: We could tell he wanted it so badly. Ever since he was five, he’s been setting new records. Up until he was 13, we’d record all his swim times on paper, print them out, and keep them in a file [whips out a thick binder folder titled ‘Joseph Schooling’]. Look at all the markings in red — those are the times he set new records. [Ed: Almost every line is in red.] Even when we travelled overseas [on holiday], he’d wake me up at 4am every day to tell me he wants to train in the pool. Which kid does that? All that made me feel more confident in letting him pursue his passion.

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