A Big Fish
Tatler Hong Kong|June 2021
As he heads off to the Tokyo Olympics, Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling tests the waters for his next big move
Marc Lim

Depending on how you look at it, Joseph Schooling is either at the tail end of his career or just getting started.

Singapore’s first and only Olympic gold medallist might be on his last lap as a competitive swimmer. The forthcoming Tokyo Olympics will likely be his swan song after almost two decades in the pool, but his future is just on the starting blocks.

“The first thing I think about is glass half-full and glass half-empty,” says the 25-year-old from his training base in Virginia, in the US, funnily enough making an analogy that involves water. “I like the second one better. It’s like a spring, diving off a block into what’s next.”

Regardless of what the reigning 100-metre Olympic butterfly champion and two-time Asian Games winner decides, Schooling already has written himself into the annals of Singapore’s history as one of its most successful athletes. Medals aside, Schooling has amassed more than SG$1 million in awards, and outside the pool, his commercial deals with Toyota, Hugo Boss, Tag Heuer, Canon and DBS Bank have reportedly earned him a seven-figure sum. Only former footballing star Fandi Ahmad comes close to matching the swimmer’s star power.

There has been talk that a job in wealth management is already on the table whenever Schooling, an economics major from the University of Texas at Austin, is ready to take it. He has also launched his own swim school and a fitness app.

“I would say I’m nervous because athletes are hardwired to want to be able to control the situation, and that’s impossible, because in life you can't really control anything,” Schooling says. “I’m excited to do something different, I’m excited to place 100 per cent of my energy and focus on building something completely unrelated.”

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