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Commentary: It's time for Joseph Schooling to enjoy being 'normal', he's more than earned it by being exceptional

SINGAPORE: Eight years after he stepped out to blinding camera flashes and a brand new world, Joseph Schooling's life is set to change once again.

On Tuesday (Apr 2), Singapore's only Olympic champion announced his retirement from swimming at the age of 28.

It was a decision that felt somewhat inevitable in recent years.

In response to a question at a media event on Tuesday, Schooling said he was looking forward to being "a normal guy".

But nothing about Schooling has ever been normal, not by any stretch of the imagination. This was a boy who left for Bolles School in Florida at the age of 14, driven by the pursuit of a dream.

Backed by a set of exceptional parents, the boy morphed into a man who achieved a feat that was anything but normal. 

Schooling's victory at Rio in 2016 was a triumph shared by the nation. He was feted like a king on his return, with fans at the airport chanting and screaming his name. Swim schools in Singapore saw an enrolment boost from mini Schooling hopefuls, brands clamoured to work with him and fans obsessed over what he ate or who he was seeing.

Sporting heroes have come and gone, their names scrolled into the annals of sporting history, but the memories of them fade with the generations.

Schooling's legacy is undoubtedly etched deeper. After all, this was the man who outswam the legendary Michael Phelpsand made Majulah Singapura ring at the Olympic Games.

And now is his time to enjoy being "normal", to enjoy a side of life he's passed up on in favour of laps and laps in the pool. He's more than earned it.

When it comes to the decision of whether to stay or to go, each athlete faces their own unique set of challenges and circumstances.

Some choose to press on, bound by a sense of responsibility to