Sport as the Heartbeat of the Nation – Speech by Sylvia Lim

(Delivered in Parliament on 15 August 2016)

Madam Speaker, The Workers’ Party joins the Minster and Members in congratulating Joseph Schooling and his family on a most remarkable achievement at the Rio Olympics.  Behind what seemed to us as an effortless 50.39 seconds must have been a lifetime of discipline, training and sacrifice.  Joseph’s parents have given him the security to enable him to pursue his dreams, supported his passion for the sport, and tirelessly fought for his cause.  They did not take the easy course of asking him to abandon his passion and buckle down to the more conventional paths of success.  Without them, Joseph becoming an Olympic champion would not have been possible.

Despite their son making history by becoming the first South East Asian to ever win an Olympic swimming gold, Joseph’s parents did not gloat in his victory, but were fully grounded in what his victory meant.  I was personally disarmed by the reaction of his father, Mr Colin Schooling, who said:

“The most important thing is to be an ambassador for all our children in Singapore that gives them hope that they also can do it.  There’s nothing special about him, just a boy who is interested in the sport”.

Indeed, sport has always had magical powers to inspire generations, and to galvanise nations.  Singapore has experienced the unifying nature of sports in the early years of nation building, and was again reminded of what it meant to support our sporting heroes flying our flag.  Singaporeans from all walks of life, of all ages, tuned in to watch the 100 metres butterly final.  Even my neighbour, who hardly talks to me, asked me in the lift whether I caught the event on TV.   The imagination of Singaporeans was captured by the exploits of a third generation Singaporean about to be a world-beater.

As we celebrate Joseph’s success, we should also honour and celebrate all Singaporeans who devote their hearts to represent Singapore in sport.   Many have slogged to be selected to don national colours, simply for the love of the sport and the privilege of representing Singapore.  We well up with pride watching our compatriots representing little Singapore compete with the world’s best.  We know you have put in so much just to get there.  Whether you win or lose – we salute you.