From ‘Singapore top swimmer Joseph Schooling granted National Service deferment’, 21 Oct 2013, article by May Chen, ST
The government has granted swimmer Joseph Schooling’s request to defer his National Service obligation, enabling the 18-year-old to focus on training until after the 2016 Olympics. He is due for enlistment in 2014 but has been granted deferment until 31 August 2016.
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Monday that the ministry had received a request from the swimmer’s parents earlier this year. He said: “The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth supported the appeal for deferment as they assessed that in his previous achievements in international competitions, Mr Schooling had potential to do well in the next Olympics.”
“As this appeal satisfies all the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsmen, the Armed Forces council has decided to grant deferment for Mr Schooling for full-time NS till 31 August 2016 in order for him to train and do well in 2016 Olympic Games. He will be enlisted for full-time NS once his deferment ends.”
Schooling, is based in the United States where he is ranked among the top swimmers in his age group. He was the youngest competitor to qualify for the semi-finals of the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley at the world championships in Barcelona this year.
In 2011, our Defence Minister announced that the list of disruptees from NS would be publicly available on the MINDEF website, however currently it only covers boys deferring for medical studies or those on PSC scholarships, without any mention of local sportsmen who took extended time off to train for prestigious competitions. If you’re an Olympic medal hopeful, you stand a good chance of deferment. In 2007, 2 national sailors and ‘elite’ athletes were granted disruption to train for the 2008 Games. Joseph may consider himself fortunate to be be spared the hassle of NS for an entire 2 years, but others who were deemed less ‘exceptional’ in their talents and pursuits were not so lucky.
In 2010, Matthew Goh was denied deferment for 3 months to represent Singapore in the Asian Junior Championships and WORLD Junior Championships. His event? Long Jump. In the 2009 SEA games he shattered the national record of 7.62 metres, but ended up sixth overall. This year, he came in first in the less renown Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic championships, but recorded a significant drop in form from his SEA games feat at 7.03 m. He hopes to represent Singapore again in 2013-2015, but one can only wonder where he would be today if he was just given that sliver of chance to compete 3 years back. The problem of filtering out sportsmen based on their current achievements and Olympics-worthiness is that you risk depriving them a chance to achieve the desired potential. I can only hope Matthew Goh proves that assumption wrong. If all else fails there’s always foreign talent.
One may argue that MINDEF’s definition of exceptional merit means a history of medal wins and the potential to do well in the mother of all sporting events, and whether it’s sailing a boat, swimming or athletics, any sport that requires remarkable feats of endurance, strength and skill should be deserving of one’s complete devotion in order to enhance Singapore’s presence on the global stage. Apparently, that category includes staring at a computer screen and clicking furiously on a mouse.
In 2005, Stanley Aw, Counterstrike enthusiast had his NS deferred by 2 months to participate in the WORLD CYBER GAMES. I’m no sporting or gaming fan, but I’m certain long jump is an Olympic event and Counterstrike isn’t and NEVER will be. How is it that a record holder is denied deferment but not a videogame addict? Or maybe MINDEF thought Counterstrike would be relevant to NS training anyway and could utilise Aw’s elite soldier skills in field combat. Ex Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean had no explanation for it either. Lord knows what Stanley is up to now and I’ve no information on how well he did for that competition. Maybe he’s stationed somewhere in Afghanistan as Special Forces as we speak. If I knew that MINDEF was flexible towards non-traditional sports, I would have tried competitive Scrabble, Rubik Cube, or even ballroom dancing in my youth. Why waste all that sweat, aches and pains on something trivial like jumping off a white line?