But very few would have witnessed the boy-to-man story of Singapore’s Olympic champion from diapers to Mizuno trunks who went prospecting in Rio de Janeiro and struck gold.Yolanda “Auntie Yolly” Pascual is Schooling’s loyal domestic helper who has seen him through his formative years to adulthood, although in her loving eyes he is always her “waterboy”.
In a Sunday Times phone interview, she said she has always believed in him.
“I was watching and shouting for him. I cannot express how happy I am … I was jumping and crying after he won.”
Still working for the Schooling household after 19 years, the two have always been close.
The 21yearold Olympic gold medallist has even called her a “second mum” in a YouTube video made by Singtel, where he showed his appreciation for her support.
“When I miss him, I read our messages [on the phone]. He’s like my own son,” she said.
The Filipina started working for Schooling’s family in 1997.
“He was playful like all boys, but [has] always been loving and caring and a very good boy. He never shouts at me or anybody.”
The 56-year-old has a file filled with newspaper clippings of him.
“He’ll always say ‘I want to be No 1’. I remember once we were watching [Michael] Phelps on TV, he told me he wanted to be there and be like him, and I knew he could do it.
“He has a very strong will. If he wants something, he’ll get it.”
But he never quite had a norฌmal childhood – a sacrifice he made to get into the record books.
“When friends asked [him] to go out, he usually couldn’t because he had practice early the next day,” said Pascual, who is married with two daughters.
When he experienced lows, she would always be there, behind the scenes, to pick him up.
“He told me when he was very tired, and I’d give him a massage. Even now, when he comes back, he still asks for massages and he’s still like the young boy he was.”