Joseph Schooling: The Story of Singapore’s Flying Fish


The world of sport in Singapore and beyond has been discussing ‘Singapore’s Flying Fish’ for about a week now. News media are full of headlines filled with recognition, pride, and a bit of sadness. After all, we can confidently state that a whole era of competitive swimming in Singapore has just ended. No doubt, you have already heard the news about Joseph Schooling’s retirement from the pool. However, we would like to pay tribute to one of the world’s most outstanding swimmers and dedicate our article to him. The BusyKidd team invites you to learn more about Joseph Schooling’s life, career, and sporting feats. Besides, we will share several interesting facts you probably have yet to learn about one of Singapore’s greatest athletes of all time.

Why is Joseph Schooling so famous and beloved by Singaporeans? The answer is Singapore’s first ever (and the only one as of today) Olympic gold medal, as well as numerous other sporting achievements, of course. So when did Joseph Schooling win gold? How old was Joseph Schooling when he won the Olympics? What happened to Joseph Schooling? Where is Joseph Schooling now? We are going to discuss these and many other aspects of our hero’s life. Let’s go!

Related Reading: Check out our guide to School Holidays, best Montessori Kindergartens and Preschools in Singapore, Preschools With Outstanding Outdoor Spaces, 14 Most Affordable International Schools in Singapore.

Joseph Schooling Parents and Childhood

Joseph Isaac Schooling, nicknamed Singapore’s Flying Fish, was born in Singapore on June 16, 1995. He took his first swimming lessons in Singapore when he was four. Already at the age of 13, he moved to Florida, USA, where he began studying at The Bells School and training under the world-famous swimming coach Sergio Lopez Miro, who became the national head swimming coach of team Singapore in 2015.

It’s interesting to know that Joseph Schooling was seriously interested not only in swimming but also in golf. And he had to make his first serious decision – to choose between these two sports – when he was 4-5 years old. When all his peers learned to ride a bike, our hero decided on his future, and the path he had chosen was hard and complicated, unlike many think.

Joseph Schooling was largely inspired by his granduncle Lloyd Valberg, who participated in the 1948 Summer Olympics as Singapore’s first Olympian. Besides, when he was 13, Michael Phelps came to Joseph Schooling’s swimming lessons in Singapore to train before the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Of course, our hero took a picture with his boyhood idol. That was truly a landmark meeting. Their roads will cross again in the future, but we will leave that for later.

Schooling made his Olympic Games debut in London in 2012. The same year, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) named our hero the Sportsman of the Year for the first time.

Joseph Schooling father, Colin Schooling, and mother, May Schooling, supported their son’s decisions, which has played a significant role in his life. As we have already mentioned, the athlete trained far away from home and his family when he was literally a child. And, yes, his childhood was quite different from what we usually refer to as ordinary childhood. However, that’s what has led him to his dream.

It is worth noting that despite constant training that took almost all his time, Joseph Schooling managed to continue his studies and even graduated successfully from the University of Texas, where he studied Economics (from 2014 to 2018).

Joseph Schooling Professional Career and Medals

Team Singapore swimmer specializes in butterfly, freestyle, and medley events. Did you know that Joseph Schooling holds eight Singapore records? Besides, he is the first Singaporean to win a swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games – he took silver at the 2014 games in Glasgow. Joseph Schooling is also a three-time Asian Games winner and 29-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games winner.

However, undoubtedly, his main achievement is the Olympic gold. Joseph Schooling won a gold medal in the 100 m butterfly with a time of 50.39 seconds at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). So, how old was Joseph Schooling when he won the Olympic gold medal? He was at the age of 21 when he became the winner of his life’s primary competition. Joseph Schooling not only won Singapore’s first-ever Olympic gold medal but also beat his idol and even broke Michael Phelps’ record of 50.58 seconds at the 2008 Summer Olympics. That’s when their paths crossed again – and that was more than Joseph Schooling’s dream.

Joseph Schooling made all Singaporeans really happy and proud of him, without exaggeration. His father, Colin, said he had dreamed of the Singapore anthem being sung in the Olympic stadium. So, when the 21-year-old hero returned from Rio de Janeiro, Singapore’s Changi Airport was literally packed with hundreds of excited fans. The whole of Singapore celebrated this historic event. Even a victory parade was held in the city.

Besides winning the Olympic gold, Joseph Schooling also fondly recalls the 2011 Sea Games, his first one. That was a very emotional and useful experience. And a very funny one. Why are only his memories of getting to the competition venue on a trishaw.

There is one more achievement we just can’t miss. On August 7, 2017, an Orchid received our hero’s name: Dendrobium Joseph Schooling. That sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Well, the flowers look gorgeous as well.

Sports Schooling

The athlete launched his swim school in Singapore, Swim Schooling, in 2018. The school was managed by Joseph Schooling mother, May Schooling, and offered swimming lessons in Singapore for kids aged 4 to 16.

The school’s program consisted of eight different stages, each designed to cater to little sportsmen of different swimming proficiency, from attaining water confidence and achieving water independency to competitive swimming, fitness swimming, and further development of lifesaving techniques.

On September 30, 2023, Swim Schooling announced its partnership with Sports Schooling, which operates The Swim Lab and X Lab. More swim classes, more professional swimming coaches in Singapore – and more pools to choose from, of course.

The Swim Lab

The Swim Lab is a child-centered swimming community for kids ages 3 and up. The school provides swimming lessons in Singapore for every kid, whether they are beginners or confident swimmers. Basic water survival skills, basic aquatic movements, various swimming techniques, competitive swimming, and other aquatic sports – there is something for little sportsmen of all ages and levels of training.

You can choose from two swimming pool locations offering swimming classes for kids in Singapore. The Swim Lab’s flagship pool in Bukit Timah is a 50-metre Olympic-sized pool. There’s also a dedicated learner pool. A sports center in Buona Vista has a 25-meter lap pool, as well as two learner pools for kids’ swimming lessons in Singapore.

By the way, you can book a free trial for your child. The Swim Lab is a great step towards your kid’s active life full of joy and achievements.

We should also note that The Swim Lab organizes Holiday Sports Camps for kids. Camp Movement is a four-day camp where young athletes learn fundamental movement skills essential across various types of sports. Then, they can choose a discipline to their liking – karate, tennis, or swimming. Camp Movement is aimed at kids from 4 to 15 years old. Their level of sports training doesn’t matter. The Swim Lab’s Holiday Sports Camp welcomes its friends during local and international school holidays at Buona Vista.

  • Address:
    • Hwa Chong Institution: 661 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 269734
    • Centre for Movement, NTU@one-north: 11 Slim Barracks Rise, level 4, Singapore 138664
  • More Details

X Lab

X Lab aims to excite and motivate kids, and it designed a special program for athletes from 3 to 18 years old that will make kids confident and happy – and open the door to the world of big sports for them. Besides, there are programs for adults who want to learn to swim or improve their swimming skills in Singapore.

Guided by director Joseph Schooling and led by head coaches Jared Butler and Jade Ariadne, X Lab helps children discover their potential, acquire important skills, make new friends, and more. X Lab swimming lessons in Singapore include the following programs:

  • Children’s Learn To Swim (for kids from 3 to 16) – Singapore swimming classes for Preschoolers, Beginners, and Intermediates.
  • Competitive Squad (swimming lessons in Singapore for proficient swimmers from 6 to 18) – Junior, Bronze, Silver, and Gold.
  • Adult Learn To Swim – swimming courses for adults with or without swimming experience in Singapore (a great choice for pregnant, those who are recovering from an injury, willing to get fit, learn to swim in Singapore, etc.).
  • Adult Masters – swimming lessons in Singapore for proficient swimmers above 18 years old.

Singapore swimming lessons at X Lab take place in pools and training facilities based out of the XCL World Academy campus in Singapore. Training facilities include:

  • The indoor heated Learners’ Pool (a 25-meter, fully sheltered and heated lap pool).
  • The Olympic-sized Competitive Pool (a 50-meter, semi-sheltered and non-heated lap pool).
  • Indoor gymnasium.
  • Other training facilities.

Everyone will definitely find his ideal swim coach and swim lessons program at X Lab in Singapore.

A free trial lesson is available.

  • Address: XCL World Academy, 2 Yishun Street 42, Singapore, 768039
  • More Details

Joseph Schooling national service

The professional swimmer received a deferment from the military service from 2014 to 2021, and on January 3, 2022, Joseph Schooling started serving in National Service.

Yes, Joseph Schooling faced specific difficulties during his transition to life in the Navy. According to the swimmer, it was a challenging three months of his life. However, the National Service is definitely not the cause of his retirement.

Joseph Schooling Collaborations

Joseph Schooling’s achievements in sports, intelligence, and charisma made him not just a sporting icon for millions of young people but also an ambassador for many world-famous brands. Toyota, Yakult Singapore, Hugo Boss, Tag Heuer, and DBS Bank named the athlete their brand ambassador. We bet all of you remember those cute pictures of Joseph Schooling sipping MILO Gao Siew Dai, Nestles’ beverage drink. We suppose many world-renowned celebrities would envy such active promotional activities.

Joseph Schooling Retirement and Future Plans

‘Today marks the beginning of a new chapter – I will be retiring from competitive swimming,’ our hero at the age of 28 announced on his social media on April 2, 2024. ‘I am eager to explore new passions, face different challenges, and see where this next phase of life takes me.’

Many fans around the world wonder what happened to Joseph Schooling. The answer is ‘nothing.’ It is time to turn the page. What is Joseph Schooling doing now? Joseph Schooling intends to dive into the field of finance and sports, and that is where his education will come in handy. He is going to help his mother, who is a serial entrepreneur and a recognized chartered accountant. Besides, our hero aims to make many kids’ dreams come true through charity and swimming lessons in his swimming schools in Singapore. The athlete plans to use his fame and success to bring the local and regional swimming scene to a new level. He dreams of attracting the world’s best swimming instructors to Singapore and the region to provide the development of the whole area. So, we can be sure that swimming will remain Joseph Schooling’s main thing. And Joseph Schooling will stay in the hearts of fans all around the world.

By the way, Joseph Schooling is going to take his first race out of the pool already this Sunday, on April 14, 2024. The athlete intends to take part in the 2024 Singapore T100 Standard Duathlon. As you can see, it is just getting started.

Joseph Schooling became an example for many. He inspired both kids and adults to do sports (and it is not just about swimming). He put hope and faith in the hearts of many people, not only in Singapore. He is deservedly considered a national hero. We would like to sincerely wish Joseph Schooling all the best in his future life, and we believe that it is only the beginning of his exciting adventure full of victories and achievements. Joseph Schooling swimming lessons for kids will definitely bring Singapore many more medals in the future.

As for us, there is no better ending to this article than Joseph Schooling’s words he said during his interview with the Echo in November 2016:

‘Dare to dream. If you have a dream, go all out and pursue the dream. The journey will not be easy, but it will be worth it. A lot of time, hard work and sacrifices will need to be made to be a champion. There is never a shortcut to success.’

Dare to dream, and stay tuned!

Cover Image Credit: Joseph Schooling via Instagram

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