SINGAPORE: There are provisions in place to support national athletes who are training to take part in competitions while they are enlisted in National Service, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
"The priority as they undergo full-time NS is their NS duties," said MCCY on Thursday (May 26) in response to queries.
"Within that, MINDEF has existing 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 SAF’s operational needs."
The ministry added that together with SportSG, it will continue to work with the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) "on an ongoing basis" to support Singapore's national athletes.
MCCY's response follows comments by Olympic champion Joseph Schooling last week on the importance of managing expectations of athletes undergoing NS.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Schooling said that athletes often have high expectations of themselves and hope to match up to that of others.
The swimmer called for a national dialogue to discuss the expectations put on these athletes.
"It's all about how we can both grow together, and how NS and sporting achievements can coincide,” said Schooling, who wrapped up his 31st SEA Games campaign with two golds and a bronze.
MCCY said on Thursday that the Government is "strongly committed" to the support, development and preparation of national athletes to excel at the major Games and other sporting competitions.
It noted that long multi-year deferments from full-time NS have been granted to "exceptional sporting talents" to allow them to train and compete at the highest level in international competitions like the Olympics.
Schooling had been on long-term deferment from NS since 2014 and fellow swimmer Quah Zheng Wen since 2015. Both deferments ended last year.
Other than Schooling and Quah, only one other person in the last 15 years has been granted such long-term deferment – sailor Maximilian Soh, for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"Our national athletes recognise the importance of National Service and do not shy away from their obligations," said MCCY.
"They support and understand the importance of national defence. It is their commitment to serve, and excel for Singapore, which is deserving of Singaporeans’ support and makes us proud."
TAKING NS INTO ACCOUNT
Singapore Sports Institute chief Su Chun Wei said on May 22 that Singapore’s high-performance system for athletes takes into account their "life stage", including NS.
"Our support philosophy is that we take NS into account and very much want to be able to support that, integrated in (a) training plan, support plan. So we want to be able to give them the best opportunity to excel under all circumstances," Dr Su said.
"More importantly, Team Singapore athletes themselves demonstrate the resilience, determination, the ability to adapt and adjust under all circumstances.
"We should focus on this special characteristic and harness it to our ability for them, as an advantage."
Dr Su also said that Team Singapore's athletes met the expectations set for them at the 31st SEA Games and can be "very proud" of their achievements.
Singapore claimed a total haul of 47 gold, 46 silver and 73 bronze medals from the Games.