National swimmer Joseph Schooling who is in Kuala Lumpur to compete in the SEA Games has apologised once again for his comments earlier this month on 1 August that:
“We’ve always had a great swimming tradition at the SEA Games. We have a young but solid group going, so I think we have the potential and the chance to do something special at the coming SEA Games. 2015 was something special for us, I think it will be nice to go to Malaysia’s backyard and teach them a thing or two.“
The 22-year-old, who had earned the ire of netizens for being “proud,” claims that his words were taken out of context and clarified that he was referring to his younger teammates and the “young but solid group” he had referenced earlier when he said he wanted to teach them a thing or two.
He elaborated what he meant to say a few days later, on 8 August:
“I was speaking about how we have a younger team than before, and then I threw in Malaysia somehow, must be the 17 hours of jetlag. And then I said I can’t wait to go to their backyard and teach them a thing or two, which made it sound like I was criticising Malaysia.
“But I was actually talking about the younger kids going there, and teaching all the rookies a thing or two about the launchpad that we have in the SEA Games to bigger and better meets in the future.
“(The younger swimmers are) Very solid, very focused…The only thing they lack is competition experience. And for this year I think majority of the team are rookies. And so for me, I think it’s always good to have an experienced guy next to you.
“I’m not going to tell them how to swim a race, that’s up to them and their coaches’ jobs, all I can do is provide moral support. It’s always nice to have a big brother or sister … to reassure the kids … and I think we can help them a great deal in that way.”
Despite his clarification, Schooling again apologised twice for his comments in an interview with the Straits Times. When asked whether he was expecting a hostile welcome from Malaysia, he reiterated:
“Yeah, I mean, like I said, those words were definitely taken out of context. I’m here to swim. If I’ve offended someone or anyone, I apologise for that wasn’t my intention.”
When a reporter urged him again: “So, at the end of the day, to clear the air, are you sorry for what has happened?” Schooling responded:
“Yeah, I just said, if I’ve offended anyone, I’m definitely sorry for my comments, but I definitely didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean it that way.
I’m here to swim, I’m not here to make any other comments outside of swimming. I am one of the co-captains. I’m here to help the rookies as much as I can, and do my best for my country.”
He also thanked Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, who urged the Malaysian public not to jeer at him during the Games.
Schooling who won Singapore’s first and only Olympic medal last year in Rio, beating world champion and personal idol Michael Phelps, stressed that he was at the SEA Games to “do the best (he) can for Singapore and for the swimming fraternity in (his) country.”
The Texas-based champion will contest six events at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, this year.
“I’ll do my best in all of them. I’m just going to do my best and let the outcome speak for itself. We have two days to prepare so hopefully we’ll put on a good performance in the Games.
“It’s definitely not like training for me. Every race my dad likes to say race fast and that actually holds a lot of ground. There are a lot of great swimmers in the Southeast Asian region so I gotta be the best as I can to make my country proud.”
Schooling won nine gold medals for the nation at the last SEA Games, that was held at Singapore in 2015.