QUAH Zheng Wen staked his claim as one of the region's best swimmers when he emerged as the most bemedalled athlete at the recently-concluded SEA Games with 12 medals.
The 18-year-old also improved on his Olympic "A" time in the 200m butterfly, clocking 1min 56.79sec at the Games, improving on his time of 1:56.85 at the Spanish Open in March.
The Olympic "A" time qualifies him for an automatic spot at next year's Games in Rio.
And it appears the swimmer, who is due to enlist for national service (NS) next month, could train for the Olympics without worrying about having to take an enforced break from the sport.
The Straits Times understands that high-level talks to discuss Quah's possible deferment are ongoing between the Singapore Swimming Association and the Ministry of Defence, among other parties.
There is precedent.
National team-mate Joseph Schooling also had his NS deferred for two years in 2013.
Quah's potential is undoubted.
Nicknamed "Iron Nose" by his team-mates, he finished on the podium in all 12 of his events, bagging seven golds, four silvers and one bronze at the biennial meet.
Quah, who has been accepted into the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, is also a key member of the three national relay squads, whom national coach Sergio Lopez has high hopes for.
The top-12 relay finishers at the July 24-Aug 25 World Championships earn an automatic spot at the Olympics. Four more places will go to the fastest teams who do not qualify.
Comparing their times at the SEA Games to the 2013 World Championships, Singapore would finish 12th, 14th and 15th overall in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m free and 4x100m medley respectively.
Said Lopez: "Clement Lim has retired, so our 4x100m free could be hurt, but our 4x100m medley could be very good.
"At the SEA Games, Danny Yeo wasn't feeling well.
"If he's recovered by the world meet, we have the same four guys in the 4x200m, and they can do a lot better."