SINGAPORE - Singapore's star swimmer Joseph Schooling will have his national service deferred till after the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In a statement on Monday (Aug 15), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the Armed Forces Council has approved Schooling's request to extend his deferment.
The 21-year-old clinched Singapore's first-ever Olympic gold medal in the 100m Butterfly on Saturday, clocking an Olympic record time of 50.39 seconds.
In the statement, Dr Ng said Schooling has been exemplary in fulfilling the “raison d’etre” for his deferment from 2013 to the 2016 Olympics.
“He trained hard and met all performance milestones on his way to Olympic glory. The rest of his achievements are, as they say, now the stuff of Olympic and Singapore legend,” he said.
His record breaking feat in Rio has “brought national glory to Singapore and filled our entire nation with pride”, Dr Ng added.
In a Facebook post following the statement, Dr Ng wrote: "Joseph can now set his sights on 2020 to defend his Olympic title and win more national glory for Singapore. Let us all wish him many more achievements and success."
In 2013, Dr Ng had told Parliament that NS deferment “may be granted in exceptional circumstances to individual sportsmen, who are assessed to be potential medal winners at international competitions like the Olympic Games and bring national pride for the country”.
Individuals will have to show why deferment is necessary for them to train full-time and compete successfully at international competitions, and each case will be assessed individually in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Many people, including the local swimming fraternity, had called for an extension of Schooling’s NS deferment so he could continue his quest for further Olympic glory without any disruptions.
Schooling touched down at Changi Airport on Monday morning to a rapturous reception from hundreds of fans.
He and his family will attend Parliament in the afternoon, where the House plans to move a motion to congratulate him on his victory and express support for Team Singapore athletes.
The motion is a formal recognition of Schooling's achievement in the 100m butterfly final, when he defeated three star swimmers - defending champion Michael Phelps, South African Chad le Clos and Hungarian Lazlo Cseh.
Later on Monday night, the Ministry of Defence replied to queries from The Straits Times about Schooling's national swim mate Quah Zheng Wen, 19, who - in preparation for this year's Rio Olympics - was granted a deferment last year. He is due to enlist after Aug 31 now.
He enjoyed a couple of personal bests and semi-final appearances, shaving off time in both the 100m and 200m fly while securing a top-16 ranking as well.
A Mindef spokesman said: "Mindef has not received any application for Mr Quah to be granted further deferment from full-time NS."