Singapore: Singaporeans waved flags and cheered for swimmer Joseph Schooling on his return to the island city state on Monday after winning the country's first Olympic gold medal.
Hundreds of screaming fans joined Schooling's family at Singapore's Changi Airport to welcome home the 21-year-old, who beat American swimming great Michael Phelps in the 100 metres butterfly in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
"Feels great. I haven't seen my dad in a while, so it's always great to see him and my mom. All three of us together," Schooling told reporters.
Known at home for smashing national records and taking multiple titles in regional competitions, Schooling had held the hopes of Singapore, a Southeast Asian island nation of less than six million, which had only won two silver and two bronze medals since it joined the Olympic fold in 1948.
"I'm here because he's Singapore's first gold medallist (at the Olympic Games) and he's a hero to all of us," said 33-year-old fan Joyce Lee.
The cheering crowd included one of his uncles, Philip Schooling.
"Joseph, we love you...and all the best, and thanks for giving Singapore children and Singapore itself a dream," he said, giving his nephew a hug.
Schooling left Singapore at 14 to train in the United States and now studies at the University of Texas in Austin, where the swimming program is led by former U.S. Olympic men's head coach Eddie Reese.
Schooling's request for another deferment from national military service was approved, the Armed Forces Council said on Monday, paving the way for the young swimmer to train and compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"Mr Schooling has been exemplary in fulfilling the raison d'etre for his deferment - he trained hard and met all performance milestones on his way to Olympic glory," the Council said in a statement. - Reuters