The eight stages of celebrating Joseph Schooling

It’s only been a week since the wonder kid made history by becoming Singapore’s first Olympic champion, but what a whirlwind week it’s been. We’d heard of the five stages of grief, but the past few days, we as a nation have experienced the eight stages of Schooling. With the dust finally settling and the golden boy given some time to himself at last, we revisit the events of the past seven days, and our corresponding emotions.

1. Anticipation

While those in the sporting fraternity were well aware of Schooling’s medal potential, the majority of Singaporeans only came to that realization in the 12 hours prior to the 100m butterfly final. Regardless, we were all swimming experts by the time 9:12am rolled around on Aug 13.

2. Pride

“He did it! He beat Phelps and those other two guys!”
“He put Singapore on the map!”
“Our first gold! ‘Majulah Singapura’ at the Olympics for the first time!”

3. Shamelessness 

Celebrations began innocently enough with a simple Facebook post from Changi Airport. Then the politicians chimed in, some making sure we knew how they contributed to his success and others forgetting the fact that we almost didn’t get to watch the race live. Then the full-page ads appeared. And before you knew it, people selling everything  from alcohol to fast food and jewelry were “celebrating” Schooling’s success with promotions that put their products front and center. Blogger mrbrown combined a helpful list of offenders aptly titled the Joseph Schooling Bandwagon List of Shamelessness.

4. Ignorance

“This means so much more than what those foreign talents have achieved.”
“See? He can actually sing our national anthem.”
“You sure he’s not ang moh? First time I’ve heard of Eurasians.”

5. Humor

From the botched Singapore Airlines celebratory photo shoot to memes, New Nation reports and comical claims of credit for Schooling’s success it was a great time to be a joker in Singapore. The ambush marketing warning from the International Olympic Committee was pretty hilarious too.

6. Questioning

“Can he continue to defer his NS?”
“Is he going to get his $1,000,000?”
“Why aren’t we celebrating our other athletes?”

7. Exhaustion

The flood of good will, the images of the race and the stories behind the man were all fine. But by the fifth time we heard about how he likes his chai tow kway, we knew it wouldn’t be long before the media starting scraping the bottom of the barrel. With the hundreds of cameras trained on him during his homecoming, some joked that the only thing left to do was follow him to the toilet. And they did.

8. Gratitude

As the media frenzy subsides and Schooling returns to the United States to resume his training, the true enormity of his gold medal will slowly be revealed. The Schooling story has a bit of something for everyone: Lessons on parenting, inspiration for children (whether they’re aspiring athletes or not) and evidence against anyone who claims that Singaporeans can’t be world beaters. It’s a moment of sporting glory in the short term but potentially the first chapter in a complete culture shift. And the best part? He’s just getting started.