To be champion requires more than simply being a strong player; one has to be a strong human being as well.
— Anatoly Karpov
Friday, 4.30pm. Everything seems so ordinary. Like it’s just another Friday afternoon at Ngee Ann City. Mad traffic at the passenger drop-off point/taxi stand. Employees at various corners taking a ciggie break, filling the air around them with white clouds of smoke and ennui. Inside, shoppers and tourists wander from Tiffany & Co to Jo Malone and Ladurée in search of gifts, and perhaps a modicum of retail bliss. Others mill about the mall’s iconic Christmas tree to capture their best selfie.
Nope, nothing out of the ordinary as I make a beeline for Hugo Boss, eyes akimbo in search of signs that might suggest otherwise. Nada. But I know. Something, or rather someone, extraordinary is in our midst. Could they not feel it?
Everything changed as soon as I walk through the door of the boutique, like I had entered Narnia. Or something. The room is charged with a sort of excitement, barely contained. The energy is palpable. The people in here, unlike the people out there, move briskly (this is neither the time or place to be a slow poke). They are conversing sotto voce. Some of them armed with cameras, others with their mobile phone at the ready.
Excuse me, are you seeing a glow in here? 🌟
No, there is absolutely nothing ordinary about that Friday afternoon.
Deep in the belly of the Hugo Boss boutique sits a national heartthrob who won his people over (in 50.39 seconds) when he won Michael Phelps and made history in the Rio Olympics three months ago. Yes, Joseph Schooling is in the house.
ICYMI, the 21-year-old has come home to Singapore for a week to sign his book, Hello, My Name Is Joseph Schooling, for fans and for charity among other things on his agenda — like, you know, spending time with his family and friends, and of course, to have his fill of chai tow kway. But not before he gets suited up by his friends at Hugo Boss.
Between the fitting and everything and everyone else that demands his attention, Schooling fitted me in for a one-on-one interview. Tired as he appears to be, the Olympic champion is unwavering in his graciousness and professionalism. He manages to be funny, too. Indeed, a huge part of #TheSchoolingEffect is that he is never not giving his best, whether he’s in the pool, out greeting his fans or obliging the numerous requests for selfies. Always with a smile.
And that’s perhaps what makes Joseph Schooling a champion: It is not just that he is a great swimmer, but also that he is a great human being — much like other great champions like Roger Federer and his own idol, Phelps.
Hello, his name is Joseph Schooling, and here are 21 things you may or may not know about him.
I like to start my day with… a good breakfast.
I’m happiest when… I’m not hungry (haha).
The last movie I watched was… The Great Gatsby on the plane.
My go-to outfit is… T-shirt and shorts.
The best thing about being a friend of Hugo Boss’ is… you always look good (haha).
The food I crave the most whenever I’m home is… chai tow kway (carrot cake) for sure. I had it this morning.
My idea of success is… being happy. If you’re content with what you have, then everything takes care of itself.
I deal with setbacks and failure by… never giving up. Keep trying and working towards your goal.
My next goal is… to break another record.
One thing I’d like to try at least once in my life is… skydiving.
These days I’m inspired by… wanting to do well and be successful.
My favourite city is… hmm, I should probably say Singapore, but Sydney is one of my favourite cities.
My lesser-known talent is… erm, I’m a grade-A procrastinator. Yeah, that’s definitely one of my talents (haha).
If I could have 24 hours all to myself, I’d… just chill, watch TV by myself, relax, have alone time.
My skincare routine is… always put lotion on after practice.
I never leave home without… my phone.
My most-used emoji is… 😂
My #WoWWoman is… my mum. She knows what’s right for me, so she’s always on my case, and things get done, or I’ll never hear the end of it.
My mantra is… dare to dream.
Being the boss of your own life means… you get to chart whatever course you want to take, and you’re in control of your future.
My advice to anyone who’s in pursuit of their dream is… never give up, dream big and keep working towards your goal.