It was 9.30am this morning at Block 50A, Marine Terrace Market. The sun was shining down brightly and the sweltering heat was unbearable.
But immediately, one could tell that this was to be no ordinary day.
That’s because the usually quiet market was buzzing with activity.
In fact, hundreds of Singaporeans from all walks of life had been gathered. Large crowds had already formed at Marine Terrace. In the crowd, were young children to elderly folks. Some of them were sitting down, but others were standing up and walking around.
And everyone was all there to see one thing.
PART OF THE JOSEPH SCHOOLING VICTORY TOUR
Singapore’s Olympic Hero, Joseph Schooling, 21, was scheduled to arrive at Marine Terrace at 10am this morning. The Marine Terrace stop had been part of Schooling’s victory tour, for him to thank the Singaporeans for their support in his momentous Olympic gold medal win in the 100m butterfly event which took place last Saturday morning (Singapore Time).
The other two stops on the victory tour had been the SingTel Communications Centre and Raffles City. The tour had kicked off at 9.30am from Old Airport Road and had been scheduled to end around 2pm this afternoon.
ANTICIPATION WAS BUILDING UP
Anticipation was steadily building up as the time ticked by. Fans were waiting with bated breath. Some had printed out photos of Schooling in the hope of getting his autograph. Others had prepared large signs to show their adoration for the Team Singapore hero.
A group of fervent Temasek Junior College students were screaming out their love for Schooling, in the form of both a large sign and singing loudly.
Pre-schoolers from KinderLand were also present, bravely bearing the heat without a single complaint. Their teachers occasionally passed them cups of water or tissues to clean off their beads of perspiration, but the excitement buzzing amongst the children was clear.
Plenty of security guards were on hand to keep the crowd under control but perhaps they were taking their job a little bit too seriously though.
SCHOOLING’S VICTORY BUS DELAYED
10am ticked by. There was still no sign of Schooling. His victory bus had been delayed. The vocal emcee tried to hype up the crowd by telling everyone where the bus was, for example, that it had just turned into East Coast Road.
With every mention of Schooling’s name, the enthusiastic crowd erupted into a voracious roar.
It was about 10.25am when Schooling finally made an appearance at Marine Terrace.
This was when the crowd went completely wild. Schooling may have got off the bus and quickly walked past the crowd, but for his adoring fans, even looking at Singapore’s national hero was already enough to send them into a frenzy.
Cameras were whipped out frantically as everyone tried to get a piece of Schooling.
SCHOOLING TOOK EVERYTHING IN HIS STRIDE
Schooling himself had been understandably overwhelmed by the attention but he took everything in his stride.
He said to the screaming crowd, “Thank you for coming out here and waiting so long, I love you guys.”
The national swimmer then headed into the Marine Terrace Market to eat his favourite carrot cake and drink milo dinosaur. The cameras followed Schooling constantly as he ate and drank.
Schooling waved to the crowd once more as he emerged from the hawker centre, to massive cheers and adorations from the Singaporean public.
But due to time constraints though, the scheduled autograph session, unfortunately did not take place.
FANS HAPPY TO CATCH SCHOOLING IN THE FLESH
The fans had been understandably disappointed by that. But they were consoled by the fact that at least they’d managed to catch Schooling in the flesh.
Said Zachary Ng, five, a KinderLand Pre School student and a Joseph Schooling fan, “I felt really excited to see him. I hope to be like him one day.”
Zachary, according to his mother, has been learning swimming for one year and having watched Schooling win the Olympic gold on television, this had inspired Zachary and given him someone to look up to.
“I admire Schooling,” continued Zachary.
12-year-old Bryan Foo, a Ngee ann Primary School student, was also another Schooling supporter, and was proud of Singapore’s national hero too. He said, “I am very proud of him because of what he has achieved for Singapore!”
Bryan added, “For me, my swimming now is quite slow… but it’s never too late to see where it will take me if I keep practising!”
PEOPLE HOPED TO CATCH A LAST GLIMPSE OF SCHOOLING
As Schooling made his way out of the market to continue with his victory tour, hordes of people enthusiastically followed him towards the victory bus, in the hope of catching a last glimpse of the national swimmer.
They were eventually rewarded with the sight of Schooling waving at them from the top deck of the open-topped bus. Cameras and smartphones were whipped out again as everyone mobbed the bus.
The swimmer was smiling, and remained calm and cool in spite of all the attention thrown at him – as the bus drove off to the Singtel Communications Centre, through Marine Parade and the East Coast Parkway.