Joseph Schooling’s Wonderful Week in Rio [Updated]


The Olympics present a rather straightforward equation for viewers: You root for your countrymen and women. But what if an auxiliary nation presents itself among your rooting interests, one that is, in fact, invisible on every map in existence? Longhorn fans may have felt this conflict while watching the men’s 100m butterfly Friday evening, as Texas junior and economics major Joseph Schooling defeated the greatest swimmer of all time in Michael Phelps.

Phelps, an American favorite, missed out on his 23rd gold medal—don’t worry, he nabbed that the next day in the 4x100m medley relay—when Schooling’s Olympic record-setting time of 50.39 seconds secured the very first Olympic gold medal in Singaporean history.

But Texas fans weren’t shy about their allegiances.

One classmate, UT junior Sabryna Salazar, even lamented the fact that she had passed up a date with Schooling:

2016 was a coming-out party for Schooling. He won NCAA championships in a slew of events, including the 100 and 200 butterfly, 400 medley relay, and 200 and 800 freestyle relays. He currently holds NCAA, U.S. Open, NCAA Championship meet, school, and Big 12 records in the 100 and 200 butterfly. Schooling won three NCAA championships in the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 400 medley relay.

Friday wasn’t the first meeting between Phelps and Schooling. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Schooling was photographed with Phelps and a mistake masquerading as a mustache. Schooling told The New York Times that he idolized the American swimmer as a child. “A lot of this is because of Michael,” he said.“He’s the reason I wanted to be a better swimmer.”

After beating Phelps, who wound up in a three-way-tie for silver, Schooling joked about taking one away from the 31-year-old.

“I don’t think he needs one more, that’s enough,” Schooling said. “I can’t imagine having 22 or 23.”

Phelps was interviewed as well, and he gave props to the competitor who’d once been thrilled just to stand next to him.

“Watching Joe and what he’s been doing over the last two years … he’s been swimming great.” Phelps said. “My hat’s definitely off to him.”

Singapore requires mandatory military service, and Schooling is not exempt from eventually serving. But it appears the country isn’t above bending the rules a tad: In light of Schooling’s historic win in Rio, the Singapore Ministry of Defense announced that he will be allowed to defer his service until after the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Until then, Schooling will return to the Forty Acres with newfound fame and fortune. NCAA athletes cannot accept payment, but foreign athletes don’t fall under the same umbrella as Americans. The Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme will pay Schooling $750,000 for his accomplishment in Rio. Athletes can accept payment from their country’s Olympic governing body for one event each year.

After taking down the best swimmer in Olympic history (and the man who broke a 2,168-year-old record with his 13th individual gold), he’s earned every penny and more.

Update: Schooling received a hero’s welcome upon landing at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Image courtesy UT Athletics.


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