So you know by now that Joseph Schooling didn’t make it in the heats.

That means Singapore’s local hero, the reigning 100m butterfly Olympic champion, will not be defending his crown at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

That was a surprise to many, including myself.

But what was even more surprising, sadly, is the vitriol that’s been going around online. 

Win, we win together. Lose, you lose alone.

From jokes about Schooling having failed to qualify because he drank too much Milo (of which he is a brand ambassador), to jokes about an impending enlistment date, to outright body shaming, some of the words shared online have simply been shameful to read.

It seems to me that the message to Schooling has been all but clear in the online world.

Win, we win together. Lose, you lose alone.

Now, I could have left this out but I want to be honest. So, here’s the full disclosure: I made a Milo joke to my wife, as we watched our Olympic champion straggling in the heats.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I thought it was a funny joke (a lot of my jokes aren’t, in truth).

But it was only when I heard my own joke repeated online as well as worse comments, that I saw just how vile my comment really was.

That wasn’t supporting Team Singapore. It was a lot closer to betrayal. 

Joseph, if you ever end up seeing this post. I’d personally like to say I’m sorry for having made that joke. It was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.

You are a living legend, and nothing can ever change that.

Now, take a second to remember where you were on that fateful day in 2016, when Schooling won the gold medal.

I remember thinking “He’s done it, he’s actually done it” as the news of Schooling’s triumph flowed faintly into my ears while I was practising on the drum set.

I felt a swell of pride in that moment. Such pride! Singapore had finally achieved her first gold medal! 

That was Joseph Schooling’s highest point (and I’m hoping there’s more!). That was one of Singapore’s highest points as a nation.

In that moment, we were truly as united as we could be, as we revelled in one Singaporean son’s victory.

Now, think back to tonight with me, when Schooling pulled in last in his lane.

That would probably have been one of Schooling’s lowest points in his life.

And how did many Singaporeans respond? With jokes and snarky comments from the couch. Needless criticism.

Schooling didn’t let us down in the water tonight. Instead, many of us, myself included — we have let him down.

Singapore may be great as nation, but we have a long ways to go at being kinder and more gracious. 

After I realised what a clown I had been, watching his media interview a while later, my heart really hurt for Joseph.

Maybe you’ve heard this before: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I wish I had lived that out as he was trailing the other swimmers.

“We still believe in you!” or “Come on, Joseph” would have been so much better than what I said. 

See you at your next competition, Joseph. I know you’ll go on to win even more.

All I can say is that I’ll do better next time. And you know what? So will Joseph.

I fully believe this will not be the last we see of him. He will always be our Olympic champion.

So, see you at your next competition, Joseph. I know you’ll go on to win even more. I’m believing there are higher heights.

But no matter where you place then, here’s hoping #TeamSingapore will be fully behind you.