We asked May Yim Schooling if there will be another Joseph Schooling

Moving forward, they plan on giving back to the community.

Tharun Suresh | April 02, 2024, 06:15 PM



May Yim Schooling is a woman of many talents.

She is a corporate leader, a serial entrepreneur, as well as a recognised chartered accountant.

What she is most known for, however, is being the mother of Joseph Schooling, Singapore's first-ever Olympic gold medallist whose 2016 heroics in Brazil saw him go down in the history books.

Tributes are pouring in for the 28-year-old swimmer, who just announced on Apr. 2 his retirement from competitive swimming.

Mothership spoke to the woman behind Joseph's success to find out what she had to say about it all.

May Yim, who was the epitome of a mum who cares deeply about her son, was candid about the ups and downs of Joseph's storied and exciting career, as well as being optimistic about what lies ahead.

"He was 'discipline' himself"

May Yim still remembers the first time her son expressed his ambitions of going to the Olympics.

“He was this 13-year-old boy who came to me and said, ‘Mum, I have to go’."

She said she replied, "But you’re so young, right?'”

Her son, however, would not take no for an answer.

Ever since that day, the journey to be the best swimmer was gruelling.

“He started training since he was like seven, eight years old, all the way to the Olympics. And it was such that when we were both at the University of Texas there was no holiday other than Christmas,” she told us.

She recalled with pride her son's discipline and grit, and was emphatic about just how motivated he was as an athlete.

"What I really admired about this boy was like, you know he has to get up at 4:30am, right? We have to get ready to go in the pool, and I think they have to report by 5:10am."

"But, there was no grouchiness. When it's time to get up, it's time to get up. And he also knows he can't stay up late, he's got to get to bed by 8:30pm, 9:00pm. He knows. I mean, he was 'discipline' himself."

Hard to go back to the grind

May Yim also shared about how she could let Joseph decide for himself what was appropriate and how much he wanted it.

"I didn't have to force him, I didn't have to do anything," she said, adding that she would give Joseph the space to decide whether to train or not.

She recalled an incident when they first went over to the United States, and Joseph told her about wanting to go on a sports trip with all of his classmates.

"So I said, 'Okay, next week, you've got a regional meet, so do you think you should go?'"

"'Yeah, better not.' So he decides for himself. I don't, like, forbid it. You want to go, you go."

Looking back on the training regime, May Yim admitted that it is very hard now to get back to that level of focus and training intensity.

“He was a very focused boy. I think it’s very hard for him to stop and then go back to the grind. Seriously. I mean, he goes back, he goes back to the grind to, like, dig it up, you know... It’s not easy.”

A journey of highs and lows

May Yim also reflected on some of the highs and lows of her son’s career.

The elation she felt watching her son clinch the gold in 2016, beating out legends like Michael Phelps and setting a new Olympic record, is still fresh in her mind.

She said: "We were all like screaming up there and and everybody was in a high but just happy, right?"

The lows included Joseph's confession to having taken cannabis back in 2022.

"There are always people that will want to try and get you to get into something they want. They do. It happens, not only to him, I think, but to all of us as well, and he has to learn how to not do all these things," she said.

She added that she felt the incident did not detract from the extraordinary work ethic and discipline that led Joseph to victory in the first place.

She explained: "I mean, he was very strong when he was training. He was like, no party, because they have to get up at 4:30am, right? And he was like that for most of his life."

When asked what she felt was her son's highest achievement, however, she made no mention of Joseph's numerous accolades and prizes.

Instead, she said him being her son was the greatest achievement: “My son being a good son, that's the biggest achievement.”

Will keep a lookout for Joseph

May Yim said she is looking forward to her son settling down as the next chapter of his life unfolds.

“I mean, he’s just starting to start his career. I’m looking to retire, and am really retiring hopefully. And if he takes over, and takes care of me, well...'"

May Yim denies having any bittersweet feelings about her son’s retirement, and is confident about his future.

"I think he's going on to further things. I'm glad to see that he's got a good head on his shoulder. And he's matured very well," she told us.

When asked if she will continue to keep a close eye on Joseph even in retirement, she said: “I always told him, 'You will always be my baby'. Without fail, every mother will say that."

"Mummy will keep an eye on you all the time.”

Giving back

Looking to the future, May Yim shared some of the ways in which Joseph plans on giving back to the community.

She said: "I'm sure he can do a lot more for everybody in the sports scene, everybody else, you know, and I mean, we are concentrating a lot."

"We started sort of a charity but we haven't done anything yet because he was not available. And we will hope to try and help other people."

Joseph has already taken steps to build upon his success for a greater good.

For instance, back in 2018, he started a swimming school for kids called Swim Schooling.

The school teaches kids water confidence, lifesaving and competitive swimming skills.

"His thing was, every kid should be water safe. And that's where we're coming from," May Yim told us.

The next Joseph Schooling?

May Yim also shared that Joseph plans on tapping on his fame and success to elevate the local and regional swimming scene.

"We will try and bring world class coaches and everything here. And hopefully we can do it. If not in Singapore, then the region. We're trying to bring the whole region up,” she said.

All of which raises the question: Will there be another Joseph Schooling?

We posed the question to May Yim, who had this to say: "Let's see. We hope. Okay, he has started this thing for others to dream. And his thing has been always like, he dares to dream and he went for it. So, I hope there'll be many more kids who dare to dream and go for it.”

Top photo from Foo Chan Seng & Joseph Schooling