SINGAPORE: Local swimmer Quah Zheng Wen has been granted deferment from National Service (NS) until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, announced Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen on Thursday (Sep 22).
In a Facebook post, Dr Ng cited Quah, who turns 20 in a week, as having gotten "close to a medal" at his second Olympics outing at Rio 2016. Quah was a semi-finalist in the 100m and 200m butterfly and also competed in the 100m backstroke event.
He was allowed to train and compete at Rio 2016 after the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced his first deferment in July last year.
Later in the day Quah issued a statement thanking the authorities "for their continuous support".
"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," he said. "With the extended deferment, it gives me the peace of mind to continue to train hard and work towards my goal of Tokyo 2020. "
Said Dr Ng: "For the first time ever, we now have two Olympics medal prospects – Zheng Wen and Joseph Schooling – who are exceptional sportsmen and meet all the existing criteria for deferment."
"This speaks well of our sporting talent in our younger generation. I hope their achievements will encourage many more sportsmen and women to excel."
The Defence Minister also said he had spoken to Quah on the phone to thank him for his commitment and to wish him all the best in his training.
MINDEF also released a statement announcing further details. "The Armed Forces Council (AFC) deliberated and approved Mr Quah’s application of extended deferment received this month," said MINDEF. "The AFC noted that Mr Quah had been granted deferment in 2015 to compete for the 2016 Olympics as he had fulfilled standing criteria."
"Deferment may be granted to exceptional cases of individual sportsmen who are assessed to be potential medal winners at international competitions like the Olympic Games. Applicants will have to show why deferment is necessary for them to train full-time and compete successfully at international competitions and bring national pride for the country."
Each case will then be assessed individually in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), MINDEF added.
"MCCY supports his application to continue training and compete in the next Olympics. The AFC has therefore approved Mr Quah’s request for extension of his deferment and for him to be enlisted for National Service after the 2020 Olympic Games," read the release.
"MINDEF wishes Mr Quah good progress in his training to win a medal in the next Olympic Games."
The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) released a statement congratulating Quah and his family. "We are deeply grateful for the continuous support from MINDEF, MCCY, Sport Singapore, Singapore National Olympic Council and our various partners, who have continued to support us in the journey to becoming a world class aquatics nation," said SSA secretary-general Oon Jin Teik.
"With the extension in deferment, we will be working closely with MCCY, Sport Singapore, Singapore Sports Institute and relevant parties to develop the future plans to help Zheng Wen achieve his goals for Tokyo 2020."
Last month, MINDEF also announced that it had granted a second National Service deferment to Joseph Schooling, following his historic gold for Singapore at the Rio Games.