Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling

Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling (b. 2 May 1979, Seoul- ) is a national swimmer of Singapore and the only athlete on record to have won 40 gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games. She retired from competitive swimming in 2007, and is a legend in the history of competitive swimming in Singapore. She set numerous records throughout her 17-year swimming career, and was honoured locally numerous times for her outstanding contributions to the sporting scene in Singapore. Yeo excelled both in swimming and academic studies as an undergraduate in America, and was the first female student-athlete in the University of Texas (Austin) to be awarded a Rhodes scholarship.

Born 2 May 1979, Yeo is the middle child and the only daughter in the family. All three siblings were born a year apart, and excel in sports and music. Their mother, Mrs Yeo Lee Choo, ensured that all three spent a lot of time outdoors to satisfy their boundless energy. It was through this that Yeo's talent at swimming was discovered. At the tender age of seven, Yeo was winning at swimming meets, prompting her parents to develop her swimming talent. In an interview, Mrs Yeo states that encouraging Yeo rather than pushing her, coupled with love, involvement and flexibility were key attributes in raising her.

Training and Education

Pursuing competitive swimming was Yeo's own decision. She pushed herself at a young age, constantly striving for betterment. Her coach then, Kee Soon Bee, described her as very easy to train and highly disciplined. Yeo began competing at nine years old. Her rigorous training routine would begin at 4.30am, with ten two-hour sessions weekly. Then, Yeo studied at Methodist Girls' School in Singapore, before spending the rest of her education abroad.

In 1995, Yeo moved to Australia to study at Melbourne Girls' Grammar School and thereafter at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where she trained with Bill Nelson. From 1999 to 2000, she studied at the University of California, Berkeley and trained under Michael Walker. Walker was acting in secondary capacity as coach for the Singapore Olympic Team, and preparing Yeo to compete in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

In 2001, Yeo chose to follow Walker when he transferred to University of Texas (Austin). She majored in Education and graduated with a GPA of 3.68 in 2003, making the Dean's List in the College of Education's Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. As a minority-athlete who attained a GPA of 3.2 or higher, she also won the 2002-03 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.

Given her impressive academic and swimming achievements, Yeo became the first female University of Texas (Austin) student-athlete to win the prestigious Rhodes scholarship (valued at USD$30000 per annum) to study at Oxford University, England. However, she did not take up the scholarship.

Yeo admits that balancing studies and competitive swimming can be tough, but states with sportsman-like assertiveness that she puts all her effort into something she sets out to do, and that there is no such thing as half-commitment.

Swimming career
SEA Games

From 1991 to 1993, and in 2005, Yeo trained in the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex. She became a member of the Singapore National Team in 1990, and made her debut at the 1991 Manila Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, where she won two silver and three bronze medals.

The 1993 Singapore SEA Games was one of the highlights of Yeo's career for she achieved her best medal tally of nine gold and one silver medals. She also bagged an impressive number of gold medals in subsequent SEA Games- seven at the 1995 Chiangmai SEA Games, and six each at the 1999 Brunei SEA Games and the 2003 Hanoi SEA Games.

In the 2005 Manila SEA Games, Yeo won six gold medals and set a new record for the 100-meter butterfly event as the first woman to complete it under a minute.

Yeo is the only athlete to have won 40 gold medals at the SEA Games.

American competitions
Yeo swam competitively throughout her varsity education in America. She was named collegiate All-America swimmer 21 times, Pacific 10 Conference champion four times, and a Big 12 Champion 10 times. She helped her team at University of California, Berkeley, attain a fifth-place ranking in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Swimming Championships in 1999, and a fourth-place in 2000. In addition, Yeo helped the University of Texas swim team win two Big 12 Championships, and set the world-record time in the 200-meter medley relay with her teammates in the 2000 Championships.

Yeo is the only Singaporean to have represented Singapore four times in the Olympic Games- the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics. She also carried Singapore's national flag in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games.

National Recognition
Yeo was named Singapore Sportswoman of the Year for 1993, 1995 and 1999. She was also awarded Sportsgirl of the Year for 1994, and was ranked ninth in Singapore's 50 Greatest Athletes by the Straits Times (a local newspaper) in 1999. In recognition of her contribution to swimming in Singapore, Yeo received a Special Award from the National Olympic Council in 2006.

Yeo had intended to retire after the 2005 Manila SEA Games. However, her excellent performance spurred her to train for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She thus competed in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the 2006 Doha Asian Games. In January 2007, Yeo made the decision to officially retire from competitive swimming, owing to the lack of motivation to train for another year till the upcoming Olympics.

Beyond Swimming
Yeo published an autobiography, On The Move: My Career, My Story, in 2004. In it she described the burden of living up to expectations and the reasons behind the public perception of her as being media-unfriendly.

Together with her older brother, Yeo now runs a swimming school, Yeo's Aquatics. She also works as a youth counselor and programme coordinator in the youth ministry at New Creation Church.

1. 50 m Freestyle - 26.13, 3 December 2005, 23rd SEA Games
2. 100 m Freestyle - 56.05, 8 August 1999, 20th SEA Games
3. 200 m Freestyle - 2:03.34, 17 July 1999
4. 200 m Individual Medley - 2:16.86, 23 May 2004, 2004 Santa Clara International Swim Meet
5. 400 m Individual Medley - 4:51.87, 13 August 1999, 20th SEA Games
6. 4x100 m Freestyle Relay - 3:54.15, 20 March 2006, 18th Commonwealth Games
7.  4x200 m Freestyle Relay - 8:32.06, 8 August 1999, 20th SEA Games
8. 4x100 m Medley Relay - 4:14.49, 2 December 2005, 23rd SEA Games

Perpetua Neo

Absolutely Parents. (2009). How I Did It: Interview with Mrs Yeo Lee Choo. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from
Aplin, N. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who's who, 1936-2004. Singapore: SNP Reference.
(Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
The big splash for swimming. (1995, May/June). Sports, 23(5), p.22.
(Call no.: RSING 796.05 S)

Kidd, M. (2003). National Collegiate Athletic Association; The University of Texas at Austin; and Patricia Ohlendorf, in her Official Capacity and in her Individual Capacity, Appellants. Retrieved 14 February, 2009 from Texas Court Of Appeals, 

Nation Master. (2007). Joscelin Yeo. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from

Singapore National Olympic Council. (2009). Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling. Retrieved January 2, 2009, from

Tay, C. K. (2004). Joscelin Yeo writes about her life. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from

University of Texas. (n.d.). Quick facts on Joscelin Yeo. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from 

Wong, A. (2007). Gosh, Jos, you've come a long way. The Electric New Paper. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from,4139,122695,00.html

Wong, M. W. (2007, January 30). Singapore swimmer Joscelin Yeo retires from competitive swimming. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from Channel News Asia. 

Yeo, J. (2004). On the move: my career, my story. (Ed. Chua Chong Jin). Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: YRSING 797.21092 YEO) 

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Women swimmers--Singapore--Biography
Yeo, Joscelin (Joscelin Wei Ling), 1979-
Sports, recreation and travel>>Water sports>>Swimming

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