National service the priority, but support provided for enlisted athletes, says MCCY

Swimmers Quah Zheng Wen (left) and Joseph Schooling were granted long-term deferment and enlisted recently. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

HANOI - While national service (NS) duties remain the priority for enlisted national athletes, the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) reiterated on Monday (May 23) that it works with the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and national agency Sport Singapore on an ongoing basis to provide support for these athletes.

At the Hanoi SEA Games, swimmer Joseph Schooling had called for a national dialogue, highlighting the need to manage the expectations of athletes who are serving NS.

Schooling, 26, enlisted in January. He was granted long-term deferment to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics and last year's Tokyo Games.

He won a historic gold medal in Brazil after winning the 100m butterfly final.

His fellow national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, 25, was also granted long-term deferment and enlisted last October.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, an MCCY spokesman noted how Mindef provides provisions such as leave and disruption "to support the training and preparation of our national athletes, taking into account the specific circumstances of the athlete, his sport, and subject to the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) operational needs".

The spokesman also pointed out how multi-year deferments have been granted to "exceptional sporting talents" to give them the opportunity to train and compete for high level competitions like the Olympics.

Other than Schooling and Quah, only one other individual in the last 15 years has been granted such long-term deferment - sailor Maximilian Soh, for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The MCCY's spokesman added: "The Government is strongly committed to the support, development and preparation of our national athletes to excel at the major Games and other sporting competitions.

"SportSG invests in the capability development of the ecosystem, as well as provides programmes, expertise and funding to our athletes."

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