Joseph Schooling has ruled the pool at this year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games but away from the water, the Singaporean swimmer is eager to follow the fortunes of his beloved Chelsea Football Club, wherever he may be.
An Asian Games gold medallist and Commonwealth Games silver medallist in 2014 in his pet event, the 100m Butterfly, Schooling – who turns 20 on 16 June – is competing in nine events at his year’s SEA Games and had six golds and six meet records after the first four days of competition.
It follows a strong performance at the recent NCAA Championships in the United States, where he won two individual events to help the University of Texas Longhorns to claim their 11th national title.
But whether he is in Singapore or Austin, Schooling does have one overriding passion – for a football club in London that he has now supported for more than half of his life.
When did you start following football and how did you become a Chelsea fan?
I started following football when I was about nine years old. I was influenced by one of my good friends who was training with me at the local Centre of Excellence for swimming to become a Chelsea fan and I also liked Jose Mourinho’s charisma as a manager.
Your mother is a Liverpool fan. Did she ever try and get you to switch allegiance to the Reds?
No, to each his or her own! We have a friendly rivalry which is fun especially when our two teams play against each other.
Given the time difference between Singapore and the UK, were you allowed to stay up late to watch Chelsea games when you were still in school?
During my school days in Singapore, I was definitely not allowed to stay up for the late games but I could watch the game on weekends. I had training at 5am during school days so it wasn’t possible to watch the weekday games unless it was a public holiday.
But I moved to the States in 2009 to study at the Bolles School (in Jacksonville, Florida) and the timing there is more favourable and we have NBC Sports and Fox Sports broadcasting the Premier League and Champions League games.
Who is your favourite Chelsea player?
Which is your favourite Chelsea game?
The final game in the 2009/10 Premier League season when we needed a point to win the title and ended up winning 8-0 against Wigan to clinch the league in style. I watched it in Jacksonville at the Bolles’ dormitory with my dorm mates and enjoyed every minute.
How about the 2012 Champions League final?
I saw that at a sports bar in Jacksonville with my dorm mates and it was such a dramatic game. After Drogba’s winning penalty, I collapsed on the floor in a happy and unbelievable state of relief!
You have yet to watch the Blues in action at Stamford Bridge. How much are you looking forward to your first visit to the ground?
I would be ecstatic about the fantastic opportunity to be able to go to Stamford Bridge to watch a Chelsea game live. It would be like a dream come true since I have been following the team for so long.
How good a football player are you and did you ever have to choose between swimming and football?
I am not good at land games! Land games have never been my thing so I never had to choose.