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Joseph Schooling admits he had “negative mindset” when he enlisted for NS in 2022

Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s Olympian Gold-medallist, admitted to a “negative mindset” upon starting national service in Jan 2022, despite deferment since 2014. Though NS posed challenges, he refutes its role in ending his career.



SINGAPORE: Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s Olympian Gold-medallist acknowledged having a “negative mindset” upon enlisting for national service in January 2022, having received a long deferment since 2014.

During a media sharing session on Tuesday (2 April), a reporter from Singapore media TODAY questioned Schooling about the role of national service in his decision to retire and how it affected his plans.

In response,  the 28-year-old swimmer admitted to initially struggling with the adjustment to military life, describing the first three months of basic military training as the hardest of his life.

“For the first three months, the hardest three months of my life,” he said.

“All of a sudden, one morning after I finished more or less halfway through my BMT (basic military training), I woke up and felt like, you are in this situation like: I have been countless times in a swimming sense, you just got a role with it, you don’t fight the tide you swim with it.”

“As Singaporean males, this is something we all have to do. You either come to terms or you will have a hard time.”

In reflecting on the impact of National Service (NS) on his career, Joseph Schooling expressed that while NS presented challenges, he doesn’t view it as a direct hindrance.

He acknowledged the support received from within the military, particularly from the Navy, which surprised him and garnered his respect.

Schooling highlighted the dedication of those in NS, recognizing their commitment despite personal sacrifices.

“They are military, they need to be bound by very strict sets of rules; they need to defend us, that is their job. ”

“It’s the same thing for me in swimming: go all out when you can. Their job is to make sure we’re safe.”

While acknowledged improvements can be made, Schooling asserted that NS did not end his career.

“Can we do things better? Yes. But no, NS did not end my career. I ended it on my own terms,” Schooling asserted.

When asked how his late father, Colin Schooling would react to his decision to retire, Joseph Schooling humorously imagines him suggesting “One more Olympics can lah.”

But Schooling said he would respond, “I think there’s a point in time where it’s time to do something else. And also on the flip side, get to spend more time and play golf with you.”

“I’d definitely pull that card – I think he’d see things my way.”

Colin Schooling passed away from liver cancer in November 2021 at the age of 73.

Regarding his potential involvement in politics, Schooling responds with a laugh, “I mean, never say never.”

“But for right now, I am focused on the business ventures; on the personal side. ”

“If I am lucky enough one day to be in that spot, then so be it. You can’t put a limit on anything.”

“But… I am very happy playing golf, my swim school, and helping my mum out at the office. It’s my turn to be a normal kid… or a normal guy.”

Schooling hoped his achievements inspire fellow Singaporeans.

“I hope that this means we can challenge the traditional career pathways. There is more than one way to be successful.”

“Most importantly, we’ve got to do things that we ourselves are proud of – whether or not it’s donating all your time for a non-profit organisation or being a big-time chief executive of a company,” he added.

MINDEF’s action marked pivotal moment in Schooling’s career following the 2022 cannabis confession

Earlier, Schooling known for his historic 100m butterfly gold medal win in 2016, declared the end of his swimming career through a heartfelt message on his Facebook page and Instagram.

As a child, Schooling dreamt of Olympic competition, influenced by his granduncle Lloyd Oscar Valberg, who represented Singapore in high jump at the 1948 London Games.

At 14, his parents Colin and May Schooling sent him to the United States to pursue his swimming passion.

In 2014, Schooling made history as the first Singaporean swimmer to medal at the Commonwealth Games, securing a silver in the 100m butterfly.

He followed with a gold in the same event at the Incheon Asian Games, setting a Games record. Additionally, he claimed bronze in the 200m butterfly and silver in the 50m butterfly.

The momentum continued in 2015 when Schooling earned nine golds at the SEA Games and later secured Singapore’s first bronze at the Swimming World Championships.

While studying at the University of Texas, Schooling achieved his Olympic dream, clinching Singapore’s first gold medal at the Rio Games in the 100m butterfly.

He also set a new Olympic record of 50.39s, surpassing Michael Phelps’ previous mark.

Following his success at the Rio Olympics, Schooling continued to excel, winning bronze at the 2017 World Swimming Championships and setting an Asian record in the 50m butterfly.

He secured two gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games and contributed to two relay bronzes.

However, 2019 brought challenges as he faced setbacks at the swimming world championships and was surpassed in certain events at the SEA Games.

At the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Schooling couldn’t retain his 100m butterfly title, failing to qualify for the semi-finals.

In January 2022, Schooling enlisted in the National Service. Despite this commitment, he triumphed at the SEA Games, yet later confessed to cannabis use during a period of disruption from NS.

Consequently, the Defence Ministry revoked his training privileges, signalling a turning point in his career.

During the 2 April press conference, when asked about his 2022 cannabis confession, Schooling responded by saying that in life, there are lessons to be learned from every experience.

“Life throws you curveballs, you make decisions, and you have to live with those consequences or decisions that you’ve made.”

“But no one is perfect, so do I regret it? I regret putting my loved ones and my family through all the angst and the scrutiny of it. ”

“The best way I can move forward is to know that there is a lesson to be learned in that, and if I’m better tomorrow than I am today I’ll take it.”

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I would believe most NS men have ‘negative thoughts’ during their NS days. And Schooling’s words about “You either come to terms or you will have a hard time.” brought back all the bad memory about NS. It is only because he is a celeb that his words publicly surfaced. Even for Schooling, I believed he has mellowed good words. Most of us suffered in silence and had to endure the twisted images impressed upon the public by mediacock army drama that doing ns is an honour or like.

At least Joseph served out his NS obligation before he turned 24-25. And admitted to using cannabis, which is a very dumb thing for a young man.

In comparison, what did the president’s son do? Deferred NS till he was like 27-29? Win any accolades for SG? If he had also used drugs, would the public be told about it? Deferred 9 years NS and nobody knows what the fuxk he did to deserve deferment???

One is a winner, the other definitely a loser.

Young men nowadays usually have “negative mindset” on NS when they are enlisted. As long as they try to correct their “negative mindset” along their 2-year NS stint, they will not suffer.
During my time, we served NS with pride, simply because we knew we have to protect our country and our people (that time more than 90% of total population is Singaporeans).
Now???? We have to ask those young men….lol.

A very well rounded Olympic champion.
He revisited his past not just about success, but readily admitted some of his flaws, never blaming anyone and courageously reviewed his mistakes.

May he always be this humble.
Thank you Mr Schooling Jr. All the best in the next phase of your life.

PS: Professional golf next?