Schooling’s compelling reason that served as a constant reminder right up to the Rio Games[/caption]
These are the wise words that were inked across Joseph Schooling’s heart and soul during his Olympic journey. And even more so just last week, at the monumental Olympic Games Rio 2016, Men’s 100m Butterfly Final. As I sit here at Changi Airport sipping on my hot Peach tea, I can only imagine the floodgate of tears and fanfare that greeted Singapore’s national sports hero on Monday at an unearthly 5.30 am. Nonetheless, it was the least we could do (wait, I was curled up in my covers), given the sacrifices Schooling and family have made to jettison a tiny island overnight into global limelight that the SG F1 night race committee can only dream of.
I admit – I have never been prouder to be a Singaporean than such a time as this. These days I live vicariously through the victory of a man whose name I uttered as the top athlete (2013 SEA Games) to receive his cash award as part of the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP) at Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel in honour of gold medalists for unremitting efforts of dedication. Decorum restrained me from pouncing on May Schooling for a wefie once she stepped on stage to receive it on her son’s behalf. It would make me look desperate I figured, not to mention get me fired from my job as the emcee-singer for the appreciation lunch event. #ClaimToLameFame
While I am enjoying all the great press about our golden boy, I can’t help but savour the significance of the two athletic journeys that ran parallel and converged at the same pool, side by side. It is no coincidence and gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Schooling revels in a hero’s welcome back home and Michael Phelps announces his retirement. To be honest, I have never been a big fan of Phelps or even Schooling simply because I am not one to live or die for sports. Yet, the synchronicity of their fight of life excites me to no end. The only time I caught the two swimmers was during the Olympics victory ceremony at the podium. Schooling was understandably nervous and excited. What struck me, however, was Phelps’ countenance.
One would expect the most decorated Olympian of all time to look visibly upset or at least strained when a young upstart put a dent on his near perfect record. Nope, no trace of resentment detected. What shone through instead was peace, joy, love and gratitude, etched on the facial lines of suffering Phelps has gone through in recent years of tumult and chaos. By now, the internet is replete with reports of Phelps’ destructive spiral two years ago before his good friend, NFL former player, Ray Lewis gave him a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life” written by Rick Warren. That was the turning point of Phelps’ career AND life. Which also explains why he looked so joyful despite having the last gold medal snatched out of his grasp. Perhaps, it wasn’t a vice-like grip to begin with. That day, a once drowning Phelps exemplified one thing.
Remember why you’re here.
Suddenly, it was no longer about swimming or being the fastest man on the planet. In his days rehabilitating and getting his life back on track, Phelps’ epiphany lay in the simple truth behind his wretched existence wrought with great emotional pain and angst – “There is a purpose for me on this planet.” It is no coincidence that as he exits graciously and gracefully from competitive swimming, Schooling finds greater impetus and momentum to drive him towards breaking Phelps’ world record. Already, he has carried over Phelps’ legacy of inspiring many more to follow in his footsteps, not just his countrymen. In one incisive slice and by one decisive stroke, one man’s intoxicating win was another’s debilitating defeat. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth as Phelps declares his new life goals: “to build a family with Nicole” and help decrease the drowning rate in the world. Wow.
“This is the part of my life where I get to start this whole new chapter,” Phelps said.
He remembered why he was here.
Phelps’ identity was not tied up with his Olympian status. It was something bigger than him but it took one competition and four walls to show the world what the real Phelps was made of. Rio 2016 not only forged a special camaraderie between the two but rewrote world history, as well as, life history. Both are stories of personal triumph. Both are stories of hope, faith and courage. You may not be a swimmer or be headed for the Olympics but as Phelps has proven, it’s not the sheer size of the win or loss in this case that matters but the step you take towards fulfilling your Purpose. As we lay aside our fears, medals and accolades bestowed by mere men, sometimes along with heavy hearts, we only have one thing that that unites all of us: The need to remain true to ourselves or risk floundering and dying.
The path to one’s purpose is fraught with curve balls, adversity and surprises. The question is: will the same God that saved Phelps from the brink of despair direct your steps or mine today? Whatever situation you are facing today in your family, relationships or career, God has the answer just for you written in the Book of Life before the beginning of time. Our breakthrough is found not in a lifetime of pursuits but in the childlike question – “what am I really here for?” And as the Creator answers the cry of your heart, you can be assured that the next time the sea threatens to knock the wind outta your sails, you can remain steadfast and unwavering til you reach your port of calling.