With Schooling’s amazing achievement at the Olympics, and that too against
some of the world’s most prolific swimmers, this is the comparison that I
have always wanted to make.
When our recruited table tennis players from China won their medals, there
was not much to write home about and whatever momentary elation there might
have been, fizzled out rather quickly.
As soon as Schooling won however, there were already Singaporeans of all
races mentioning moments in his early life,where he went to school, where he
lived in Singapore and claiming allegiance and pride for that fact alone.
Some mentioned meeting him when younger and there were very localised jokes
about his achievements and more importantly, it gave many Singaporeans who
represent this nation in any sport belief, that they too could do something
special for their flag.
I am not saying that a naturalized Singaporean born elsewhere who might go on
to represent the nation and achieve sporting success should be dismissed.
Putting it simply, there needs to be a connection to the people you represent
and not just the flag.
Some prior life in Singapore; having had a teh tarik at a prata shop with a
group of friends and talking cock, knowing the little intricacies of the
various races who live in Singapore, knowing your ‘alamak’, your ‘wah lau’ ,
Knowing that there is power kway teow in that place, a damn sedap nasi padang
in that other place and a bloody happening banana leaf at this place.
That is why recruiting ready made athletes to play for the flag will always
fail no matter what they achieve because whichever government authority who
might have lent support to this notion failed to understand is that the
people of your nation want to see a part of them being represented too.
Schooling has done just that and may we now pave the way to once again
rediscover our Fandi Ahmads, our Ang Peng Siongs and our Sundram’s of this
nation’s sporting future.