[UPDATE 16th August, 2016, 1.22pm Helsinki time: Please read the friendly and constructive comments thread to this neutral post before anyhow citing my article on random angry political websites yah. I’m very proud of how we can graciously agree to disagree–I didn’t even have to moderate comments! ^^]

Quick post before I head off to the airport.

A disclaimer before any politician invites me to friendly coffee again:

This post has no opinion. I’m just innocently wondering exactly what the Singaporean government did to nurture local arts/ sports/ music/ entrepreneurship in Singapore, instead of taking the easy way out to import foreign talent to fulfil their own KPIs.

Because you see, I’m seem to be really ignorant, so I would like to know. 

Indeed, recently I’d been very puzzled, because suddenly a lot of ministers in the Singaporean government took (partial) credit for Joseph Schooling’s Olympic gold accomplishment. Then I was wondering, exactly what did each minister do?

So here are some of the points I’m “deeply puzzled” with:

and MP Tan Chuan Jin, who affectionately calls Joseph Schooling “Jo”. Then there was this video of our president Tony Tan:


So hor, could it be that Singapore has this system:

  • Step 1: set up a social system that clearly promotes mathematics and the sciences, and penalises people who want to pursue arts, entrepreneurship and sports.
  • Step 2: When an exceptional group of people does well on the global stage in the arts, sports and entrepreneurship, get the media to do wide coverage on their accomplishments and then say “See, Singapore is a place to do arts/ entrepreneurship /the sports because Singaporeans can achieve these stuffs too”.
  • Step 3: Repeat Step 1 and 2.

If like that hor, then why is there a need to change the Singaporean system? Because Singapore will have a great international media coverage in the arts, entrepreneurship and music anyway. Since there are a handful Singaporeans in arts/ sports/ entrepreneurship who are successful in spite of limited help from the state BUT Singapore (the country and by extension the government) still gets positive global media coverage.

Aiyah you just think about it lah. How many of our folks who want to do arts/ sports and entrepreneurship ambitiously are actually based their whole life in Singapore?

It seems to me more that the Singapore, Inc works on market validation. That is to say, you have to prove that you “have a market”, or “have some economic value (read=”$$$”) to Singapore first before the state will help you. This is true for entrepreneurship, music and arts in Singapore so far, and also true for Schooling’s case.

Anyway, I love how humble and ambitious Joseph Schooling is! Watch:

I feel so proud of him as a fellow Singaporean and honestly, I think his family and friends takes ALL his credit. 🙂 I feel slightly ashamed that the Singaporean government cannot/ will not want to do more to support local young sports people like him, and I hope someone can prove me wrong.

Feel free to disagree! Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in this topic.


  1. I think, step 3 about what Singapore has done is not to repeat step 1 & 2, but to train a generation of parents who believe only in Math and Science only.

    1. I beg to defer! Step 3 about what Singapore has done is not to repeat step 1 & 2, but to train a generation of parents/Singaporeans who are militant-supporters of PAP and hysterically fearful of changes!

  2. It’s an extremely “Singaporean” thing to do, not only the Government. I can think of so many examples.

    How many people would fork out even $100 for a Singapore-branded fashion wear/accessory to support Singapore designers, when they would not hesitate to throw thousands of dollars on an LV bag? How many people showed support local artistes like Kit Chan/JJ Lin before they went over to Taiwan to develop their singing career? How many of us would now buy a Creative product, just to lend our support to Mr. Sim Wong Hoo, the fellow Singaporean who brought sound to computers with his Singapore-made Sound Blaster?

    We all know Singaporeans would not support local brands, until these local brands went through the baptism of fire and achieved a certain level of success outside Singapore. After these guys have shed silent tears overseas, silently fought for themselves and finally overcame the hurdles to make a name for themselves, Singaporeans then very hypocritically acknowledged “Oh, we are so proud of XXX, he is a fellow Singaporean!!”. Honestly ask yourselves, isn’t this what we often do? This is not typical of the Government.

    If we will not support our local talents, how can you expect the Government to put the taxpayers’ money on our fellow Singaporean? If the Government had put in the money on Joseph Schooling and he did not bag any medal, Singaporeans will then complain that the Government wasted millions of dollars for nothing. We all know Singaporeans complain over everything – put in money = waste money; don’t put in money = don’t support.

    Seriously, the Government does not owe any of us anything. Ashley Isham did not ask for taxpayers’ money to become successful in the fashion industry; Kit Chan did not get monetary support from the government to become a superstar; Tan Howe Liang did not base the first Olympics medal for Singapore on money from the government, not a single cent. They all fought the hard way to achieve what they have achieved, they overcame many obstacles and shed tears to reach their destination.

    Let’s just focus on the success of our young Olympian, Joseph Schooling, and give credit to his parents for raising such an outstanding young man. His parents have given a lot for him, the limelight should be on them, instead of on how little the government did.

        1. The point is not to be right or wrong, “owned” or not. The point is to hear out perspectives and agree to disagree.

          Or is hearing and acknowledging multiple perspectives unfamiliar to you? :p

    1. I think it is not a question of giving money or not. The deeper question is the mentality, the vision, the attitude of a government who would then put in place policies, measures (and continue to fine tune them with the kind of vision for its own people) that seems lacking. I do take the word “support” not just in terms of money. How we, as a country and as a government, promote the Arts, Sports to each and every kids, for example, is a serious matter. Extra-Curriculum Activities is an important part of our school education, but sadly schools are using it to form school teams so as to bring glory and performance bonuses to their stuff, and they have forgotten or ignored the mass promotion of such activities to all the children under their charge. That is the true sad state of affairs in our so-called “world class” education system!

      1. I think Singaporeans are too reliant on the government to initiate everything. I don’t think an “Art/Sports” culture is lacking in Singapore, I just see Singaporean parents continuing to pack their kids’ schedules with tons of tuition/so-called “enrichment” classes, because Singaporeans themselves put academic excellence as priority (and view Arts/Sports as secondary). If Mr. Colin Schooling did that to Joseph, I don’t think we’d have an Olympics gold medal so soon. Like Charlene Chong said, our mentality must change. Rather than relying on policies (like how we used to have Courtesy campaigns to bring the politeness out of us), we should make the change from within ourselves first.

    2. I was largely in agreement with your article until I came to the part where you said our “Government does not owe any of us anything”. With respect, I must disagree. By most accepted definitions, a government is a body voted into power by the people, sustained by the people through taxes etc. and is intended for acting in the best interest of the people. While the government doesn’t “owe” us in a way you owe a friend money if you borrow some, it at us at least a duty to be supportive and accountable of our needs (and sometimes our wants). This, rightly or wrongly, I think is the foundation of democracy.

    3. Agree. Self motivation and sheer hard work are what that matters. Just feeling imbalanced on government’s shortsightedness to spend taxpayers’ money grooming foreign sports ‘rejects’. It’s like playing cheats on computer game and still wants the honour upon achieving a certain level. Joseph has taught us all a lesson. ‘It’s all about winning’ and winning it honorably.

    4. The Government think nothing of paying themselves massive salaries, bonuses, and even additional enormous pensions for ministers, even serving ministers once they have reached a certain age. The Government has also taken the ground away from our entrepreneurs, and the markets from local merchants through huge government monopolies. Clearly it practices the principle of little or no welfare for ordinary working citizens or businesses, but massive opportunities for government monopolies. Risk Capital is largely channelled to GLCs and not likely in the same vast amounts to ordinary private enterprise. Promising Scholars, businesses, sportsmen and civil organisations all need financial assistance to grow expeditiously. Without appropriate assistance, private enterprise and sports will remain a hit and miss situation. Probably many more misses than hits. Government has to change its mindset. Involve civil society much more , reduce its stranglehold through unfair monopolies, provide more media freedom and improve the jurisprudence of the state.

    5. @Alex,

      How you brought about the strawman logic of locals “not supporting local talents” is really beyond me. You do realize that there was a stark difference in attitudes between local athletes and f̶o̶r̶e̶i̶g̶n̶ ̶n̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶a̶l̶s̶, I mean naturalized SGreans brought in post-goldmedalSG right?

      In any case, let’s debunk your claim anyway.

      The SG market has largely supported Sim Wong Hoo’s venture actually, remember the Creative Zen? Let’s talk about the entertainment industry: You conveniently left out many are in favor of local artistes as well, even up and coming ones e.g. Youtube/social media personalities/influencers. Also, remember the case between Dr Ting Choon Meng and Mindef’s case for the emergency mobile clinic innovation? That was ample evidence to suggest that innovation is bogged down directly due in part to the government’s heavy-handed approach.

      “If the Government had put in the money on Joseph Schooling and he did not bag any medal, Singaporeans will then complain that the Government wasted millions of dollars for nothing.”

      You got any evidence for that son or are you just making stuff up? Nowhere in SG (be it speaker’s platform/social media or otherwise) have I heard of a local complaining about how the govt is wasting money on another local, not for the lack of trying in a certain venture anyway.

      And you wonder why SG is experiencing a significant brain-drain…with friends like these, who needs enemies really?

      Listen, i understand it’s a complex issue to tackle. Every solution the incumbent govt. seems to have is to bring in foreigners as a temporary stop gap measure (Workforce and now Sports), to complement what we lack in. Isn’t that tantamount to putting a band-aid on cancer? Invest in the right people, groom the locals so that they can hand down what they know instead of any two-bit naturalized SGreans who’d only use SG as a stepping stone to further their aims.

      1. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

        i couldn’t agree more about “Band-aid” as a metaphor~

        Personally, I tend to get the feeling that whenever there is a bleeding wound, there is a tendency by the singaporean government to put a plaster over it, instead of finding out the root cause of the wound.

        Maybe it is the fast pace of life in Singapore. You know, people like to say “oh we should start with change from ourselves”. Then Id think…what if there is no time to think, and no time to change? 🙂

  3. Just some comment over Alex.c.
    i dun think this is actually about brand as its a different case. Supporting local sport talent is what government has to do to promote sport. Instead of investing money over singaporean, why do they need to buy over foreign sport talent just to compete in sport and eventually these talent they bought when go back to where they are from in the end? They really do little to local sport talent, I think this need to be change. They need to give more resource to them.

  4. The government has done what it can to nurture local arts, sports and entrepreneurship. There are art schools, sports schools, entrepreneurship courses where there were none three decades ago.

    Government – as it is charged with spending public money – must do so in a fair manner. Fair means there must be a consistent way to allocate the money and also a reason.

    Imagine for a moment you are a civil servant in charge of allocating money for sports talent. When would you start to give money to Joseph Schooling? When he was six years old and starting out? At that point in time, there are many young people who are learning to swim. Who do you pick out of so many students? What is your process? How do you justify your decision to those who do not get funding? What do you say to those who do not want the government to support sports but to give money to cardboard collectors?

    Now you can see it is easy to say that the government should support this and that in hindsight.

    1. Precisely. Couldn’t agree more– so do you see my point now?

      The Singapore system obviously works– due to “market validation” haha~ it is just not so friendly to areas such as arts/ music and entrepreneurship where it takes time to market validate 🙂

    2. Sure, as a proper arbiter the government cannot and should not allocate funds arbitrarily. The question of when and how much support should be given need not be complicated if a proper system was to be in place. If indeed it is the intention of the government to support and nurture sportsmen and artistes, a well drawn out plan and process would be in place already (perhaps it already is…??). But certainly we cannot hide behind the excuse that some decisions, such as this, are indeed difficult ones to make and therefore we ought to shy away from them. It is precisely why a government is formed – to make decisions on behalf of the people, including and especially the difficult ones. Yes, sure. It may not be right all the time.There is no such thing as a perfect system. Some deserved people may be left out. But when you start having a system in place, we will learn from it and start improving it.
      When would I have started giving money to Schooling?….probably when Singapore Sports Council started taking notice of him (which by the way was many many years ago). How much??….perhaps something close to what it has been costing us to nurture a ‘foreign’ sports talent. End of the day, maths and decisions need to be only as complicated as we want them to be. Cheers!!

    3. This is right up there as a repeatable, memorable response to so much of that vitriolic, uncompromising criticism of all issues/matters not in blind, even determined opposition to all things “G” ..or alternatively (as they are so fond of putting it), “69.9%”.

  5. Agree with Alex C.
    Both government and us locals need to support locals. Mdm Ho Ching did right by promoting the bag at US State dinner.

    We can continue to lay blame on past example of government not doing something, or we can start doing our own part to support locals, whether sports, arts, inventions, music etc.
    Facebook is a good media to promote to one another about all these local efforts.

    1. Agreeeee!!!! We must find a way to support local arts, fashion, music and sports. It all starts ground up!

      Let’s think of how to make ground-up initiatives sustainable! 🙂 👍👍👍

      I respect what Ho Ching did. She really leads by example.

  6. Without wading into the discussion, I will just point out Schooling has been receiving a monthly stipend plus a whole bunch of other training/travel expenses since 2013 as one of the inaugural spex scholars (spex is Singapore’s funding scheme for high-performance athletes.) The funding amount is not talked about very much publicly but for the top tier of athletes (which includes Schooling) the amount is believed to be around $8,000 a month for the stipend alone.

    1. Yes! Id heard about that over social media too, do you have a link we can refer to for verification? Where did you hear this from? 🙂

      1. Wow, thanks for pointing this out, Daryl! I admit that I was totally ignorant of this spex scholarship, and I’m sure, so were many Singaporeans. I did a quick Googling:

        This link named Schooling as one of the recipients of the scholarship in 2013 (see end of article) – https://www.redsports.sg/2014/12/04/spex-sports-excellence-scholars-second-attempt/

        This Straits Times article states that “Athletes identified for the top tier (of four levels) of support will receive a monthly stipend of up to $8,000 and other forms of assistance in areas including sport science, coaching, competition, training and equipment…it is believed that Singapore’s top paddler Feng Tianwei, bowling world champion Shayna Ng, and swimmer Joseph Schooling are in this bracket.” – http://www.straitstimes.com/sport/17-elite-athletes-join-spexscholarship-scheme-athletics-and-rowing-included-for-first-time

  7. The comments in your article are really interesting.

    Instead of just relax lah, enjoy the moment, go out & celebrate, all I read is people go online and

    1. Ask for off day
    2. Make jokes like love schooling so no off day
    3. Who should take credit
    4. Blame the government/Blame somebody

    Relax lah and ask…”Bro,/Sis where is the party?”

    So far only one party happening & it’s at Hougang.

    No Leicester. No Iceland.

    Sorry Joseph, your welcome party will have been bigger if there is a Snorlax around.

  8. I’ll confine myself just to address the sports part of your question and leave out the arts and entrepreneurship.

    There’s Sporting Excellence and there’s Sports for All. In fact I believe that’s how the two different divisions in Sport Singapore are named. Sporting Excellence isn’t just talent spotting 6 year old kids, which is terribly hit and miss, but slowly building up the infrastructure (easy-Sports School) and culture (difficult). The Foreign Talent Scheme for all their detractors is just one way to jumpstart this and it certainly isn’t the sum total of all their efforts. Singapore is so small and our numbers really work against us.

    Your question on what Singapore has done to support local sport saddens me. We have access to public running tracks, stadiums, tennis and squash courts, gyms, swimming pools but we tend to take these for granted. We have schools that have state of the art sport facilities, and we take those for granted also. We hear exhortations on healthy lifestyle and work life balance and dismiss these as propaganda. We make IPPT a reality for more half of population in their twenties and thirties, (effectively institutionalizing health consciousness). Many developing countries, and developed countries even, look enviously to us that we can supply our kids and the general population with these facilities.

    One more thought – I believe that Joseph Schooling is a one in a million kind of kid, and there are four more out there in Singapore. But my point is that living in Singapore has allowed Colin Schooling the opportunity to be successful enough to allow his son to pursue his Olympic dream. The kind of poverty (or more accurately, lack of prosperity) in India and Indonesia and many other countries means that many potentially successful superstars have to remain in farms or warehouses or factories trying to eke out a living.
    That’s what Singapore has done to nurture Joseph Schooling

    1. This is a good argument. I like the way you said that the government slowly supports and nurtures local talent.

      Thank you for taking the time to write this, I can see why you are “saddened” now. So moving forward, we should communicate the way you did, that the Singapore govenrment does a lot to provide excellent sports facilities to the community and it is up to the individual family to take the leap of faith to also co-partner the government to groom talent 🙂

  9. I would say… a ‘well to do family’ background is essential. But of course there are cases of poor boy success also! Whatever it is… Its about Schooling! He put the hours daily for this day! at 21.. He has a great future ahead!

  10. I’m sure that when Joseph made Singapore proud, all politicians wants to take some sorts of credits. Well it’s just politics, free publicity. Look at all these selfies evidences. Like what we see in movies, if mission fail, CIA will not acknowledge your existence.

    1. True that! I mean if I see him Id also want to take picture.

      Actually, from the comments we realise one thing: we have a supportive government but it seems like our government can consider commenting how much it -did- support Schooling. 🙂

      Like the 90k scholarship would help somewhat leh! 👍 better than zero. And the minister did help him fight for deferment.

  11. “I’m just innocently wondering exactly what the Singaporean government did to nurture local arts/ sports/ music/ entrepreneurship in Singapore”

    The author clearly has never heard of SPRING Singapore, which disburses millions in grants and startup capital very liberally to new businesses.

    In fact in 2015, it announced a $75 million fund for high-tech startups alone. The White House allocated $2 billion in a similar program called Startup America. Corrected for population size, Singapore’s fund is 50% larger than the US’.

      1. I am not too sure if there are existing statistics but here are some requirements depending on the grant.

        ACE Start-Ups Grant: Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents who hold at least 51% equity in the company.

        Capability Development Grant, Technology Enterprise Commercialization Scheme, Innovation & Capability Voucher: At least 30% local shareholding (this is a common requirement for other department grants like IDA’s).

        Other Angel Investors, incubators and venture accelerators program has no written requirements on local shareholding; but, it is likely to allow foreign investors to come into Singapore. That being said, all business must be locally registered, and their products must have local applications.

        How many benefits go to Singaporeans depend on how much we believe in the trickling down theory – or how many local companies are smart enough to apply for grants. Based on anecdotal accounts? A lot. (But, I don’t work in the Government, so don’t take my word for it.)

        (Although I am unsure as to why SPRING has anything to do with this article.)

        1. Thank you for this, Astraios. Actually ah. I think if there are successful local startups the SG government should do its best to communicateeeeee~

  12. “I’m just innocently wondering exactly what the Singaporean ” For someone who claim in his opening statement above he sure has a lot of information to condemn the government, the ministers, the schools and everybody but fail to show what he himself or WP has done.. You have no right to judge others unless you have step up!
    You are no different from the many useless people who only know how to complaint and blame others..

    1. Chill bro, this post is asking for clarifications. From the comments, we know that Singapore government did a lot! 🙂 Why are you so worked up ah?

      Do read the above constructive comments, they have provided so many useful information about what the ministers did! 🙂 hope they help you in your argumentation in future too 🙂

      Eh im a staunch PAP supporter btw. My favorite politician is Khaw Boon Wan, if you read my previous posts you know how much I support him.

    2. relax. Everyone is just clarifying here. The way you came out fighting seems like you were fighting for some party or someone

  13. Yes the parents should get full credit. However, Schooling is funded under the SPEX Scholarship. Before u accuse the govt of doing nothing, at least do some research.

    1. Lol nobody is accusing the government of anything. “Can we do -more-?” is hardly accusatory! :p

      Or is it, to you?

      Check the constructive comments above 🙂

      1. Nope but its extremely irritating to see the endless racist post accusing the govt of funding “FTs” both not locals like schooling and Ur article not including that fact only helps to reinforce the fake rumors. Like I said U should do some research before writing something like this. Bad enough that hate sites are spreading them, we don’t need more pple adding to the confusion

        1. I’m actually confident that people who read this post with the same intentions as to why I wrote it– that is, to seek clarifications–will read comments too. Just like you did.

          So I don’t see an issue there. have more faith in Singaporeans as critical thinkers and readers, perhaps? 🙂

    1. That’s cool! 🙂 thanks for sharing. It’s really heartening to know! Hopefully this clarifies some of the “zero funding” rumours that are spreading on facebook.

  14. I would say that the model for creating Olympic Champions and entrepreneurs and leaders in arts and culture should be one which the government is involved by taking care of macro level support and in the case for sport champions, to build sporting facilities, funding for sports promotion and by that, I’d say that they have done a superb job with Singapore Sports Council, Singapore Sports School and all the facilities we have in country. I’d even go as far as to say that they had even gone further to promote sporting excellence to some extreme means. Creating conversations on sporting excellence (see past NDPs), bringing in talent to kick-start sporting excellence to shift and change mindsets.

    One personal example was when I learnt that there was a nation wide sports academy selection for Primary 4 children. To pick up kids with natural talents and put them through a sports training and appreciation programme to develop interest in sports. Part of the work is also to attempt to change parents’ mindset that their child may have potential in sports.

    With the government setting conditions, then comes family influences which lends emphasis to the micro level support elements which I believe is even more crucial than macro level support. This is ultimate prime mover just as family education has a greater impact on the individual compared to school education.

    Last but not least, it boils down to the individual. It is also about person gumption and passion for success in the domains that we speak about.

    It is only when we consider all three levels that we have a more comprehensive appreciation of what makes an Olympic Champion, entrepreneur and an artist. All three works in tandem and in concert and with different people , different aspects are more salients.

    My two cents.

    1. I’m very happy that various perspectives are shared! It’s a pleasure listening to them.

      These comments are amazing leh. Very little trolling and everyone is so polite =] I think a Schooling has a huge positive effect on the level of politeness here.

  15. When you are a small country, you have to focus on what gives you the greatest chance of survival in the world. The strongest and most resilient nations in the world (which we count as one) all focus on STEM subjects. Be glad for Schooling but sports has some of the greatest failure rates for each success. Every 4 years, only 1 person can hold that medal out of the hundreds of countries and the thousands of aspirants from each country. What happens to all the others who dedicate themselves to the same goal? On the other hand, in academics and business, there is plenty of space for more success. Even the Icelandic EURO 2016 team was made up of part-timers.

    Be glad our children are disputing over the trival things like arts and sports instead of asking whether the government will subsidise their next rice harvest.

    1. Actually hor, nobody here is ungrateful leh.

      Gratitude doesn’t mean that one cannot seek to clarify. =] in fact, the more grateful you are, the more you should work on good communication and seeking to clarify. For the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 🙂

      1. Exactly. Sick and tired of people pulling out the ‘ungrateful’ card to anyone who is critical of the government! When can people learn that to look at things with BLIND eyes is not a form of being ‘grateful’. It is only a form of being oblivious to the truth.

    2. I would like to add that endeavours in STEM and Sports should not be seen in isolation to one another. What the Olympic hopes to promote is the idea of the Olympic Spirit – in short bringing out the best from individuals and communities through sportsmanship and mutual encouragement.

      Investing our time in STEM does give us individuals and the nation as a whole high economic returns, STEM drives commerce, finance, science and engineering. However as humans, we still need to physically move our limbs, exercise our bodily balance/coordination and connect with others through sport (better than connecting with others through unhealthy food and inane consumerism)

      If examples of Schooling can spread the passion of sports to everyone, that is worth an investment too. The amount spent on R & D and STEM education compared to Sports is simply too lopsided.

      I have stayed in Australia and I can see that Australians are pretty passionate about sports. Kids spend their leisure time outdoors: in the sea or in wide open spaces. Many a times, when I am studying “STEM” subjects in my room, neighbourhood kids would knock on my door and chio me to play cricket with them.
      Adults who are professionals in their respective fields can take 1 or 2 years off to train full-time for the Olympics because they are passionate about their sport and would like to seize the opportunity to push themselves further. Sportsmanship does promote the spirit of adverturism.

      As a result, even though Australia has a population of only 20 million, they have managed to field sizeable contingents for every Olympic events consisting of local talents.

  16. I enjoyed how the comments are constructive and gracious to one another. I respect your intention to seek clarifications. Thanks to the new information provided, we can now look at the situation in a different and informed light. However, your blog continues to be cited seemingly in support of articles such as: “A roundup of how Schooling owes Singapore nothing in his long, hard road to Olympic Gold”. Many do not go through the ‘comments’ section and therefore would not have learned of these new found information. Perhaps not a bad idea to follow up with an update on what was uncovered through this clarification process. But might deprive you of a kopi opportunity hor?

    1. can! I’d include an update later at the start to this post, thanks 🙂

      I don’t give a damn about informal coffee. Once is enough.
      But coffee to offer PR services to the government/ which can lead to us working formally? Sure! Not going to say no to that 😛

      I DO think we have a great Singapore government. The challenge here is how to communicate well.~

      1. Great to see the update and agree with the last point. The kopi was meant in jest and am sure you don’t care two hoots for it. 🙂

  17. Completely agree…there’s a saying here. To get recognition here, you have to make it overseas on your own. It not only happens in sports but other sectors like the arts – Anthony Chen received accolades overseas before the govt took notice of his film making talents. I’m utterly disgusted with the govt who jumped on Schooling’s coat tails the minute he won gold. Pls be reminded that you guys didn’t do jack for his swim career, except to exempt him from National Service, even that, his folks had to fight hard for that. The fact that the Schoolings were gracious enough to let you jump on their cost tails says a lot about them as hums beings. As for these parasite govt types, please don’t embarrass yourselves by hinting you had anything to do with his win. This goes to the companies that are now using his win to promote their products and services. You Guys Did Nothing For Him, so don’t be jumping on the Schooling bandwagon, you’re disgusting. All credit goes to Colin and May Schooling, you’ve done your country proud. For everyone else, get your heads out of your asses! You want to do Joseph a favour, staring giving him cash and support his carrer and education overseas. As for his NS deferment, Schooling has done more for Natinal Service than 20 SAF scholars!

    1. I hope humility becomes the next national virtue for Singaporeans leh! I think I need to be 100X more humble than my current self, for instance. 🙂

      So proud of the Schoolings! They are super inspiring in all their humility and accomplishments. They taught all of us that it is possible to be ambitious AND humble at the same time 🙂

  18. Very different life led by the writer versus Singaporeans growing up in different generations.

    I grew up through an era where sports could never feed a family (and still can’t really). You could train hard, love the game, excel at it, but you can’t pursue it if you wanted to survive. Don’t mention that few big names. That rare few had parents’ money and/or moral support – they worked hard, succeeded, and I’m happy for them. What about those without? The difficulty is ten times more. If the government doesn’t help, either through money, bringing in world class coaches or offering channels, it’s nigh impossible.

    And this – was largely due to an infrastructure and government that wasn’t ready for it, nor possessed a vision for. Not to mention, they’d rather pay themselves insanely high salaries than sacrifice some of it for their own people. This, is why it took us so long to see a Joseph Schooling story happen.

    If countries that were economically unstable and poor could produce sports stars, I totally don’t see why ours couldn’t.

    And no – it isn’t true that Singaporeans would have complained if the government invested in our own people. Since when have we done that? That is really insulting your own people.

    And yes – the government owes us. We helped build this country, and pay them their exorbitant salaries. They owe the elderlies washing toilets, collecting refuse and cleaning food courts.

    They owe us.

  19. As a recipient of the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) since 2003, Joseph Isaac Schooling would receive an annual stipend amount of $$90,000 to help him train full time.

    That’s better than a manager’s salary in many companies.

    On top of that, he’ll get other forms of assistance in other areas including sport science, coaching, competition, training and equipment.

    In three years, he’ll be receiving a total of $270,000 in financial assistance.

    According to an article by Asia One, Joseph Schooling received S$370,000 from the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme for earning four medals at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

    For winning an individual Olympic gold, Joseph Schooling will receive $1 million, under the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP).

    There’s no official record if Joseph is being supported financially by any sponsors and donors.

    Assuming there are no other financial support, he should get about $1.64 million.

    Joseph Schooling is expected to give 20 per cent of his earnings to his National Sports Association. He has to also pay tax for his earnings as this is a normal and prudent fiscal practice in most developed world.

    Comparatively, the U.S. Olympic Committee only award US$25,000 to an athlete for winning one gold medal at the Olympic Games.

    This athlete will also have to pay a maximum possible “victory tax” on the bonus for each gold medal. It will amount to US$9,900 in accordance to the top tax rate of 39.6% (Americans for Tax Reform).

    From wisdom of hindsight, one can argue that the Singapore government should provide more financial support to an Olympic gold medalist.

    How then does anybody know which athlete will rise up to achieve such a historic feat? Or should the government support every promising athlete?

    Another person can also argue that the government should reward artists, performers, chefs, actors, actresses, writers, singers, musicians, poets, entrepreneurs, social workers, etc. who can bring glory to the nation on a world stage.

    Is there a perfect solution to look after all our high-performing athletes in the past, present and future that will satisfy everybody?

    Will the haters continue to hate, the grumblers continue to grumble, and the stone throwers continue to throw stones?

    I have heard all the speeches in Parliament about Joseph Schooling. They were all high praises for him and his family and Joseph’s achievement.

    When Parliament passed the motion for his contribution, it will be recorded in posterity. One of the highest recognition for any Singaporean. The glory is for him and him alone.

    Let’s not politicize the achievement and allow the trolls to divide us and turn what’s positive into something negative.

    Let’s celebrate Joseph’s unprecedented victory and rejoice as one people.

    1. That’s great Patrick, what with the stats provided and all. Would also appreciate if you could address other local Olympic athletes’ who slipped through the cracks (no, not those who were only so recently awarded the SPEX).

      I mean, why has rower Saiyidah Aisyah resorted to crowdfunding in the first place in order to even be an Olympic participant?

      Let’s also address coaching standards as a means to groom our local sportsmen to greatness. Surprised how the powers that be never considered sending the current batch of athletes overseas (on a merit basis of course) to further their skills (You can have that idea for free btw). It’s evident that Schooling’s and Quah’s coaching were world’s apart, that Quah managed to reach the semis without said assistance was all the more shocking.

      Here’s another idea, this time wrt SG’s football association. Replace individuals whom have no clue about football or otherwise in the board of directors with someone who is more or less in touch with the situation on the ground. I mean, seeing as how you have an MBA, I wouldn’t wager against placing you in a technical/hands on industry yes?

      And let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s a beautiful picture you painted about the generosity of our gov. but you do know that the standard of living in SG is much higher than that of the US right?

      I agree with your penultimate statement however: “Let’s not politicize the achievement”…yet it seems there are those who seek to ride on the coattails of Joseph’s success however undeserving they are. Here’s hoping you’re as objective in telling them off as you are tenacious with naysayers.

  20. Hi, Patrick Liew, do you have the monetary figures of the 54 athletes had benefited from the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme and received Singapore citizenship (number of athletes was announced in the Parliament in March 2008). Because I really don’t know and would love to know. Thank you.

  21. Glad to know there are objective opinions here.

    I suppose someone is politicising this issue now on an anti-government sentiment.

    Hope readers stay objective and gather the fact before forming any opinions from anecdotal or unvalidated opinions.


  22. This discussion is interesting and level headed enough for me to want to continue …

    We are all witness to an extraordinary event, Singapore winning an Olympic gold. Will we see it happening again? Maybe (hopefully) and almost certainly with Joseph Schooling again. The rarity of such an occurrence is a result of so many things coming together at the right time and place.

    For certain Joseph Schooling is a one in a million individual with the potential to become an extraordinary athlete, but being born to extraordinarily supportive parents is another rarity. Being raised in Singapore, where his father/family is successful enough to be able to spend so much resources (time, effort, energy, money) is also a blessing. Receiving proper training and talent spotted when young is a big help. Making the right decisions at critical times to subject himself to proper training under world class coaches is also not a given.

    Many don’t realise that our 5 million population is really a small base from which we hope to find the next gold medal winner. Given our limitations we can certainly hope to find the next individual athlete, or potential chess grandmaster, or prima ballerina, or Nobel prize winning economist, but a team of high performing champions to compete at the highest levels? I’m not sure. Whether at table tennis or basketball or football, we don’t have the depth of talent. Our best hope lies in individuals, those rare and hard-to-find gems that are literally one in a million.

    That’s why the larger the country is, the richer it is, the more comprehensive their sports infrastructure is, the more sports-oriented their culture is, the more systematic their talent spotting is, the better chance of them producing world beaters. There is always room for minnows to come through and we should celebrate it, but let’s not think that we will suddenly become like Australia in producing world champions despite their relative size/numbers.

    I’ve been reading about how China is so successful at table tennis. They scour the whole country and talent spot hundreds of kids from as young as 5 and 6 years old, send them to sports academies, subject them to intensive training with very high fallout rates. They have hundreds joining their top ranks every year. Maybe the top 20 have a chance to make it to the national team, what about number 21 to number 200? Many will seek to monetize their only skill (what else do they have to offer after two decades of non-stop training?), not just players but coaches, scouts, physios, etc

    We can certainly improve our talent spotting, and scholarship schemes and overseas training stints, bringing in foreign coaches, removing structural impediments like deferring NS, improving the acceptance of sports as a viable and worthwhile endeavour, and yes, even bring in foreign talent if it’ll help build a critical mass in certain sports. But wait a minute, we’re already doing this … so I guess they’re on the right path.

    What many Singaporeans don’t realise is that all this is very expensive. If Singapore came back with no medals to show for these Games, they’ll be complaining of the high costs of wasted funds on these SPEX scholars. They already complain about the cost of the Sports Hub and the costs of staging the Youth Olympic Games. Let the haters hate and the whiners whine and the complainers complain. They’ll never be satisfied.

    I am savouring this moment and looking forward to Tokyo 2020. If we don’t have another gold medal winner in my lifetime, I can always say to my grandkids that I watched Joseph Schooling live when he won the gold medal for Singapore.

    1. I’m watching Joseph Schooling and his buddy Quah Zheng Wen leh! =)

      So happy! Both of them give Singaporeans some sort of national pride and hope. ^^

    2. Ehhhh, please stop using the “SG and her population is small” excuse. It’s actually tiresome hearing that trobe from apologists. Here are some countries that have a smaller population pool in comparison but are far outweighing SG in terms of achievements: Finland; Norway; New Zealand; Qatar; Costa Rica; Uruguay; Fiji; Macau etc.

      “…they’ll be complaining of the high costs of wasted funds on these SPEX scholars.”

      As stated in my replies to others, nowhere in SG (be it speaker’s platform/social media or otherwise) have I heard of a local complaining about how the govt is wasting money on another local, not for the lack of trying in a certain venture anyway. So honestly, let’s not grasp at straws shall we?

      In addition to the point of SGreans complaining, I appreciate the strawman but did you conveniently forget that the YOG organized by Vivian B. went overbudget by more than 200% (or was that 300& I forgot)? The Sports hub was a fiasco due to bad planning really…I mean, did they actually weighed the pros and cons before investing in a white elephant? Was there any enjoyment in displaying “indoor” fireworks this year for instance? And ffs they couldn’t even maintain the pitch! The ideas were good, the execution was terrible…by incumbent scholars/generals no less.

      “But wait a minute, we’re already doing this … so I guess they’re on the right path.” Funny…I honestly haven’t come across SG sports school groomed athletes sent overseas for training. Perhaps you could furnish us with sources? Btw, as per Patrick Liew’s comment above, the US is paying less and taxing more for their very own athletes so your argument of “…larger the country is, the richer it is…” holds no water.

      “Haters/Complainers/Xenophobia” are fast becoming dirty words in a sorry attempt at singling out individuals with justified responses to the nation’s poor planning and weak policies. What Schooling did was a marvel, no one…least of all the incumbent party members should shamelessly steal his thunder (evidenced in the past few days).

      P.S.: After a homecoming/parliamentary meeting with them, he has decided he just might settle in the US. Probably grew tired of the leeching sycophants too.

      1. Hi all, late to this thread but heres my two cents. I think its definitely needed that we ask ourselves what we could have done for Jo Schooling, and future Jo Schoolings.

        However lets not kid ourselves. Much of the socio political commentary on this topic is targetted at two things. One, that the government failed to help him, and two, that its now claiming credit. The “we” in the question asked, for many people, certainly doesn’t include themselves.

        So, the government. I think we agree that given the finances we have and the enormity of Schooling’s win, the G could have done a lot more. Yet as Patrick Liew has mentioned, Schooling has been on the SPEX Scholarship for several years. MINDEF is an obstinate mule when it comes to NS, yet defering him was a crucial move as well.

        On claiming credit. This is the part I do not get. I think its fair to say they all want to be seen with him and to get a piece of him. But the local media has been unequivocal of his parents role in his development. With the exception of LBW, which Minister or MP has come out to say “I did this, we did that?” The fanfare, the parades, those are GIVING credit, not taking it.

        On spending on sports in general. The YOG, sports hub, SEA games. Actually the fact that these can be brought up show that money is indeed spent/overspent on local sports. Many local athletes won on home soil last year. The monkey in the room here, is the table tennis team. Most rational minded people know its impossible to fund any randomly promising 15 year old with hundreds of thousands of dollars from right off. In fact, local swimmers have been supported since the days of Joscelin Yeo and Christel Bouvron, with mixed results. The SPEX program started a long time ago. But with the skewed, inconsistent way table tennis operates, it makes people blind to all other factors and simply talk about throwing money.

        On politicising. The main gripe I have with the people doing this is they are primarily socio political commentators with little interest in sports, and so know little of whats been done, or what local athletes are doing. In another comment thread I challenged another person to name some local sportsmen and what they were doing. She couldn’t. When Jo Schooling was trying to defer, how many knew. Any petitions, any blogs, any social media sites did a lot to drum up support for him? For that matter, how many of us watch football live? Or anything else. Or are the same characters politicising ticket prices like they do with everything else? When they speak of sports, is table tennis the only angle they hit at, because it is all they know?

        As for the xenophobic ones, it is worth pointing out that as late as 2014, the Schooling family had yet to convince everyone they weren’t foreigners. Even now, there are some accussing his filipino maid of stealing his limelight. He has since hit back at them. Xenophobes and haters are not just words made up to win arguments. They are real, and very often nothing good comes out of them.

        Summing up, am I saying therefore that no one deserves to be proud of our first ever olympic gold? Not at all. If our joy and celebration is genuine, why not? It is really those who have been pushing an agenda the past days that need to question themselves on their motives and reasoning. Do you really follow local sports? Did you really follow his journey to glory? Or are you using it now as one sided political fodder with no moderation and recognition of what was actually done?

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