Singapore’s Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling apologised again to the SEA Games host country after arriving in Kuala Lumpur on Friday (18 Aug).
“If I offended anyone, I do apologise…that wasn’t my intention. I’m really sorry for my comments and I definitely didn’t mean it that way,” said the 100m butterfly gold medallist during a media scrum.
Schooling had told reporters in Singapore after returning from the World Championships in Budapest, “The 2015 Games was so great for us, but I think it’ll be nice to go to Malaysia’s backyard and teach them a thing or two.”
Malaysian netizens called the comments “distasteful” and “uncalled for”. Some comments also asked Schooling “to be humble”.
The 22-year-old clarified that his comments were taken out of context, saying, “I was speaking about how we have a younger team before (that), and I threw in Malaysia somehow. It must’ve been the 17 hours’ of jet lag, and then I said I can’t wait to go into their backyard and teach them a lesson or two which made it sound like I was criticising Malaysia.
“I was actually talking about our younger kids going there and teaching (our) rookies a thing or two about the launch pad that we have in the SEA Games to bigger and better meets in the future.”
Malaysia’s youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin also urged Malaysians not to boo Schooling during his events, adding that he did not think the remarks were made in a negative manner.
Schooling added that he was appreciative of Khairy’s comments. “We didn’t ask the Minister to defend me but he came out of his own accord to do so… it goes to show how great of a guy he is, how much support he has for the Games,” said Schooling.
The swimming competition takes place from 21 to 26 August at the National Aquatic Centre, and Schooling said that he is taking the meet seriously. “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,” he said.
Schooling will be taking part in three individual events and three relays.