Joseph Schooling's gift to a blind masseur

Ismail Akbar Abdullah (left) with a customer at Block 539 Bedok North Street 3. Photo: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore

He’s never met Singapore’s Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling before, but Ismail Akbar Abdullah is eternally grateful to the 21-year-old.

Ismail, 62, will be receiving a special gift from the national swimmer who will be donating his free Grab rides to the blind masseur. The free rides consist of $7,300 in ride sponsorship. The sponsorship takes effect immediately.

The ride-hailing platform awarded Schooling and his parents the free rides after his historic gold medal in the 100m butterfly at the Rio Olympics in August.

The University of Texas student is unable to accept any benefits due to National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, and decided to gift two local beneficiaries with the free rides. The other beneficiary is local para swimmer Benson Tan, who needs to travel between Pasir Ris and Barker Road for his training. 

When Yahoo Singapore met with Ismail at the void deck of Block 539 Bedok North Street 3 on Friday (30 September), where he is currently offering his massage services, he said he was very appreciative of the gift.

“I am proud that Joseph still thinks about the less fortunate despite his success and this gift will be useful for me.

"I need to take a taxi from my house in Kampong Bahru to Bedok and back. Both trips cost me $30. With the (sponsorship) I am able to save money,” said the father of three daughters.

Ismail, who works from noon to 10pm six days a week offers a variety of massage services at the void deck of the block.

He said he has been offering the services at Bedok since 2008 and treats between three and 20 customers per day.

Ismail, who lost his eyesight after suffering from a fever in February 1968, was shocked when he received a call by Schooling’s representative to inform him of the gift last week.

“I want to meet Joseph. He is an inspiration to everyone. I’ve heard about his success on the radio and I am very proud of him,” said Ismail.

Ismail is also hoping to repay Schooling’s kindness sooner rather than later.

“I wish he will visit me when he is back. Please tell him I will give him a proper massage to  help ease his muscles,” he added.