Schooling parade draws thousands
FROM the Housing Board estate in Marine Parade to the glitzy shopping belt in the city, thousands lined the streets to give Singapore's first Olympic champion, Joseph Schooling, a rousing send-off yesterday.
The 21-year-old waved to the crowd and said "thank you" as he rode on a red, open-top bus in a three-hour journey which took him from Marine Terrace Market to Singtel Comcentre and finally to Raffles City Shopping Centre.
He was joined by parents Colin and May, as well as national swimmer and good friend Teo Zhen Ren.
The victory parade started at 9.50am at the Singapore Sports Hub, scene of Schooling's nine-gold outing at last year's SEA Games.
He reached Raffles City Shopping Centre - the last stop - close to 1pm.
Along the way, fans - from young children, students and working adults to retirees - made clear their appreciation for the swimmer who bested United States legend Michael Phelps to win the Olympics 100m butterfly final - in an Olympic record time of 50.39sec.
Some held up placards and posters of the swimmer, and one fan even tossed a stuffed toy in the air - which Schooling managed to catch.
At one point, a lucky driver who happened to stop next to the bus at a traffic junction rolled down his car window to wave to Schooling, who replied "thank you, uncle".
Amid the frenzy, two accidents occurred along the way.
One car grazed the side of Schooling's bus as the driver and passengers waved to him.
Another failed to brake in time and collided with a car in front of it.
At each stop, Schooling stepped out to sign autographs and interact with fans.
His security team had to be on high alert as fans forced markers and memorabilia at the swimmer.
Each school that the parade passed - including Dunman High School, Tanjong Katong Girls' School and the Canadian School - had staff and students lining the road to welcome their idol.
Drivers along Old Airport Road sounded their car horns as the crowd chanted "Singapore, Singapore!".
Overhead bridges along the route were also filled with fans eager to catch a glimpse of the swim star.
Singapore's golden boy also made his way to hawker stall Bee Bee Carrot Cake for his favourite dish, chye tow kueh or fried carrot cake.
Schooling, who is studying at the University of Texas, will return to the United States early in the morning today.
THE STRAITS TIMES