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Joseph Schooling announces withdrawal from 2023 SEA Games

Updated: Mar 2

Photo credit: josephschooling Instagram

Singapore’s Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling broke his silence and decided to withdraw from the 2023 Southeast Asian Games, according to a statement.

The biannual Games is set to be held in Phnom Penh from 5 to 17 May 2023.

Schooling said that the decision was not an easy one.

“I am currently not at the level at which I hold myself to perform,” he said.

“My country comes first before individual accolades,” he added.

In the statement, Schooling also shared that he has decided to give his spot to his team mates who have been getting themselves ready and considered for selection.

As for himself, he said that he will “cheer from home” and focus on his Navy duties.

According to The Straits Times, this is the first time Schooling will not be representing Singapore at the SEA Games since his debut in 2011.

The head coach for the national swimming team, Gary Tan said that Schooling “has been a mainstay of the national team for quite some time and I know that Joe believes as well that there are capable swimmers in the team who can step up to the challenge. The team will miss his presence but we will keep moving forward.”

In August last year, Schooling and another Singaporean freestyle swimmer Amanda Lim, was found to have consumed cannabis overseas.

He was banned from national team training for a month after an internal review.

Schooling, was also fined $10,000 by the Singapore National Olympic Council for breaching its code of conduct.

In addition, MINDEF said due to the controversy, he is no longer eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete during NS given his abuse of disruption privilege.

From his more-than-stellar records to withdrawing from the competition, we take a look back to the Olympian’s journey since his debut.


Schooling started competing at the Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, setting a new Games and national record for the 200m butterfly race with a time of 1 min 56.67 secs.

The timing qualified him for the 2012 London Olympics.

The newcomer also broke records with his 24.06 secs in the 50m race.


Schooling made his first appearance in the Olympics as part of the Singapore contingent.

However, just before the 200m butterfly heats, officials rejected his goggles and swimming cap and he had to scramble to find a replacement.

That caught him off guard and he did not qualify for the semis.


Schooling was set to be enlisted in National Service but he was granted deferment till 2016 to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games.

In the same year, he also bagged a gold medal in the SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.


He brought home Singapore’s first medal at the Commonwealth Games after finishing second in the 100m butterfly race with a time of 51.69 secs.


Schooling continued to bag medals at the SEA Games, with him bringing back 9 medals at various swimming races.


After failing to qualify for semis in the previous Olympics, Schooling bagged Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal in the 100m butterfly event with a timing of 50.39 secs, ahead of Michael Phelps’s timing.

He was also granted to extend his deferment for National Service in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.


He continued his winning streak with 6 SEA Games medals in Kuala Lumpur.


He set an Asian Games record of 51.04 seconds in the 100m butterfly event.


Schooling won four gold and two silver medals in the events he competed in.

2021 His deferment for National Service ended.

A sad year for Schooling as one of his life-long supporters, his father, Colin Schooling, 73 years old, passed on due to liver cancer. In the same year, Schooling did not manage to defend his 2016 title and was not able to qualify for the semis at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

He was placed 44th overall.


After years of deferment, Schooling finally enlisted in National Service.

He also won several gold medals at the SEA Games in Vietnam.

In August, Schooling and fellow swimmer Amanda Lim were embroiled in controversy after confessing to taking cannabis while overseas.


After many years of bagging gold in SEA Games, Schooling decided to withdraw from the upcoming Games in Phnom Penh.

The future is still uncertain for Singapore’s Olympian but Singaporeans will always be rooting for his continued success.

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