Singapore swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, whom former national coach Sergio Lopez once said "has the same potential" as Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, has a clear runway ahead to soar at the 2020 Olympics.
Yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced on Facebook that the Ministry of Defence has extended the 19-year-old's national service deferment until after the Tokyo Games.
Quah's deferment had expired at the end of last month. The announcement comes a month after Olympic 100m butterfly champion Schooling was granted a second deferment to prepare for Tokyo.
Dr Ng said: "I spoke to Zheng Wen and his father. I thanked them for their commitment to excellence, the many hours of training Zheng Wen has put in and many more needed for the next four years, for him to win at Tokyo 2020.
"I wished Zheng Wen the very best in his training and his ambition to win glory for Singapore."
Quah, who reached two semi-finals in three events at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, said: "I'm deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be able to train full-time and dedicate myself to doing my best and making our nation proud.
"With the extended deferment, it gives me the peace of mind to continue to train hard and work towards my goal of Tokyo 2020."
Quah, who holds four individual national records, enjoyed a good outing in Rio, where he was competing in his second Olympics. There, he reached the semi-finals of the 100m and 200m butterfly. The 16 fastest swimmers from the heats qualify for the semi-finals, while the top eight make the final.
His personal best times in the 100m and 200m fly stand at 52.08sec and 1min 56.01sec respectively. The Olympic winning time for both events are 50.39sec and 1min 53.36sec.
Assistant national coach Gary Tan said the deferment gives Quah the opportunity to get an ideal four-year training cycle under his belt, somewhat similar to what Schooling enjoyed when he was first granted deferment from national service in 2013.
This means the ability to prepare without interruption for major international meets, including the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and two world championships next year and in 2019 in the lead-up to Tokyo.
Competing in these meets, said Tan, would give the swimmer greater exposure and, more importantly, a good indication of where he stands compared with the world's best.
A two-time Olympian, Tan said: "By making two semi-finals at the Olympics, he has shown that he is among the world's best and that there is a lot of potential in him. What he can achieve in Tokyo is entirely up to him.
"We will be sitting down with Zheng Wen to discuss our plans moving forward... (ensuring) we have the best system and support in place for him.
"(The deferment) will not only motivate him but I believe it will (also) motivate other swimmers as well to continue to train hard and achieve their dreams."