GETTING OUT OF A RUT 

Later on Tuesday afternoon, in an one-on-one interview with TODAY, Schooling also spoke about helping young athletes overcome hurdles, tackling his own mental health challenges and his plans moving forward.

On the first point, he said that he grew up having to balance school and swimming training, which required “a lot of discipline and time management”.

However, being a member of the Singapore national team and with teammates doing the same thing makes it easier for him.

“But if you’re out of that circle, how do you increase your chances?” he said.

“So I think it’s more about finding what works best for the kid. It’s not one size fits all, but we have to be prepared for a variation of situations. It should be as tailor made as possible.”

On whether advice he would give to young people keen to pursue a career in sports would be more ambitious or sensible in tone, he said he would “definitely err on the side of realism”.

“We need to understand that motivation and this feeling of getting pumped up is temporary. It’s not sustainable. What’s sustainable is they’re given all the facts, and at that given time, they’re allowed to make the choice which resonates the most with them,” he said.

“If you can help the kid get to not only where he or she wants to be in the sporting side, but also the personal life development side, that’s a whole different level of fulfilment. Just be realistic. No ‘dream for the stars’ and all that.”

He let on that there were certain periods in his life where he struggled with his mental health as well, particularly after being disappointed with his performances at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2017 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in the United States.

At the latter competition, Schooling could not defend the 100-yard (91.4m) butterfly titles which he had won the previous two years, placing second.

He was also unable to make the finals for the 200-yard butterfly event, finishing in 37th place overall. 

Some sporting competitions in the US still use imperial measurements such as yards rather than metric.

Not in his ideal physical condition, Schooling said he felt as though he was “on the borderline of having a panic attack”.

But having “good people around” with him and channelling his focus back to swimming had helped him get out of his rut. 

“As athletes, we have to go through these ups and downs,” he said. 

“But I like to think of it as — the tougher hurdles that you can overcome, the better it’s gonna set you up for any challenges in life. 

“Just keep climbing to a different, higher, (even) higher level, and that’s the only direction we can go in.”

The direction Schooling has chosen for now lies away from the pool — in the venture capital arena as a founding partner of Swaen Schooling Capital. 

But his new career will not be a desk-bound one either.

He told TODAY that his experience working nine-to-five in an office during the latter part of his NS days made him realise his disdain for a sedentary vocation. 

“It’s just not who I am,” he said. “I need to be around and about, meeting people, having the autonomy to forge my own path.”

As for how this opportunity came about, Schooling gave a serendipitous response that seemed to accurately describe his illustrious sporting career. 

“Timings in life sometimes are unexplainable. But when an opportunity does arise, we’ve got to take it.” 

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