50.39 seconds and 8 Years of Schooling: A look back at Joseph Schooling’s career

by Peter Bryan Pitas
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After making waves and reaching tides in his career, Singapore’s lone Olympic Champion, Joseph Schooling, marks a new chapter in his life announcing his retirement from competitive swimming in an Instagram post on April 2.

Dubbed Singapore’s Flying Fish, Schooling stunned the swimming world after beating his childhood idol and Olympic legend Michael Phelps in the 2016 Olympics, winning the historic 100m butterfly gold for Singapore.

For 50.39 seconds, Schooling performed an unforgettable feat that the world remembers even after eight years. Look back on the journey the 28-year-old swam in pursuit of being an Olympic champion and celebrate his legacy.

Early Years

Photo from Joseph Schooling’s Instagram

The Eurasian swimmer was born into a family of athletes, where his parents, May and Colin Schooling, sent him to Florida in 2009 to train as a professional swimmer under Sergio Lopez.

Schooling made his Olympic games debut at the 2012 London Olympics and was named Sportsman of the Year by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

He started his collegiate career in 2014 in Texas, where he won 12 gold medals at the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships and was named Newcomer of the Year.

Series of Firsts

Photo from Simone Castrovillari

 Starting in 2014, Jo achieved marvelous feats for his country, starting by being the first Singaporean to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, clinching silver in the 100m butterfly.

In the same year, he won Singapore’s first gold since 1982 at the men’s 100m butterfly event and secured a bronze and silver in the 200m butterfly and 50m butterfly course.

Schooling took the first Singaporean medal at the 2015 Fina World Aquatics Championships, beating various national records. He also took home nine gold medals from nine events he participated in at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.

Jo was at his peak at the 2016 Olympics, being the First Singaporean Olympic champion and beating Michael Phelphs, setting a new record of 50.39 seconds, beating Phelphs’ record of 50.58 seconds at the 2008 Olympics.

Photo from Joseph Schooling’s Instagram

After his historic triumph in 2016, Schooling continued making waves, securing medals in various global competitions with his last stint at the 2022 Sea Games in Hanoi, where he won two golds and a bronze.

Schooling ended his career with an Olympic gold medal, two World Championship medals, seven Asian Games Medals including three golds, a medal at the Commonwealth Games, and 34 medals at the SEA Games including 29 golds.

Photo from Joseph Schooling’s Instagram

Schooling launched his swim school in 2018, named Swim Schooling, aiming to empower every child’s aquatic dream anchored in Joseph Schooling’s achievements and experiences.

Despite stepping away from the limelight early, Schooling undeniably inspired the youth, especially athletes from Singapore, to break boundaries and transcend the seas, as he made history for his country.

Tributes poured in after Jo’s retirement announcement, with his colleagues, coaches, countrymen, and political leaders thanking him for his contribution to the country.

“For 50.39 seconds, you made a nation stand still. In 50.39 seconds, you helped show the world that people from small countries can do extraordinary things. In 50.39 seconds, you rewrote Singapore and Olympic history. Thank you, Joseph Schooling, for the years and countless hours of toiling in the pool,” Singapore Aquatics, Singapore’s national swimming federation, said in a post on Instagram.

While he has ended his swimming career, there is no doubt that Joseph Schooling will continue to inspire the world with his achievements.

What do you feel about Joseph Schooling’s retirement? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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