Joseph Schooling's uncle has come out to set the record straight and rubbish any claims that his Olympian swimmer nephew used money provided by the state, but failed to defend his 100m butterfly Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Schooling's uncle, who goes by Max Le Blond on Facebook, was replying to an online comment criticising the swimmer.
The critical comment by a naysayer, after Schooling did not qualify for the 100m butterfly finals, said: "So it’s ok to use state money but come in last in the heats as defending champion?"
This comment set Schooling's uncle off, who took the uncharacteristic step of publicly stepping in to defend his nephew and setting the record straight on the use of state funds -- or lack of.
Max's response was shared by Alvin Tan, founder and artistic director of The Necessary Stage.
Known Schooling since he was toddler
According to Max, he has known Schooling since the swimmer was a toddler and had helped the teenage future Olympian with his studies over long-distance calls and via email to adjust to The Bolles School in Florida, USA.
Right from the start when Schooling went to study overseas at a school known for its academic and sporting excellence to nurture his Olympic dreams, all expenses were borne by Schooling's parents, Colin and May Yim, Max said.
His travel was not paid for by "state money" but by his parents. His fees at a very expensive school -- chosen because it was a school that specialised in combining academics and sporting excellence in swimming -- were paid for not by "state money" but by his parents. His accommodation in North Florida was not paid for by "state money" but by his parents. The same source of "money" was what paid for his specialist coaches, his trips to various competitions, and so on. Because of the taxation regimes in the US, his parents had to give up their normal lives so that one of them at a time could be with him when needed in his early years in the US. Those very expensive necessities were not paid for by "state money" but by his parents.
Schooling's uncle also said that Colin and May Yim made "enormous sacrifices in business" raising Schooling and ensuring he had the right training, "because there was no 'state money' or minimal 'state money' for many many years".
Limited state money provided only much later
Max also reiterated that state money only began to flow "very late in the 'game'", by which time Schooling had started to make waves in the swimming circuits in the U.S. just before he turned professional.
Schooling's uncle also wrote that it was the University of Texas, i.e. the Americans, who offered Schooling a scholarship to continue both his studies and pursuit to become a future Olympic gold medallist.
By the time the money did come from the Singapore government, Schooling had already made a name for himself internationally "at the highest levels" where he was beating U.S. swimmers.
Entitled to opinion, but not facts
If anyone thought "state money" had somehow brought Singapore success, they were very much mistaken, Max wrote, adding that he respects people's right to express their opinion, but not their "own facts".
But as someone who was there from almost the very beginning, and who knows how much it took in guts, grit, unrelenting work, fighting past failure, unstinting parental love, and yes parental -- not "state" money, to bring Singapore its very first Olympic Gold: I need respectfully to state that you are entitled to your own opinion: but not to your own facts.
Schooling's uncle also pointed out that "victory has a thousand fathers", but "defeat is an orphan".
Max explained that while the public might be disappointed, first-hand disappointment certainly belongs to Schooling himself.
What happened in Tokyo is a profound disappointment -- and nobody is suffering that disappointment more terribly than Joe's parents, and of course, Joseph.
Schooling's mother said in 2017 government didn't provide
This issue regarding getting the government to step in to foot the bill for upping the chances of Olympic success was addressed by none other than Schooling's mother, May Yin, in March 2017 in a candid Lunch With Sumiko interview.
May said in the interview then that she dismissed outright as wishful thinking the idea put forth by some that the Schoolings could have asked for the government to provide money to shoulder the financial costs of training an Olympian.
When asked why Joseph's studies and training were not fully funded by the government, May, known for her forthrightness and verbosity, said then:
"I was told, 'Why you so stupid? If Singapore wants your son to swim for them, they should pay.' I said, 'Tan ku ku' (a Hokkien phrase for "it won't happen").
"That's why I keep telling everybody, if you feel your son or daughter has it, it's up to you whether you want to support them. If you're going to wait for people, don't do it, okay?"
Follow and listen to our podcast here
Top photos via Max Le Blond & Joseph Schooling