SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has granted Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen an extension of their full-time National Service (NS) deferment.
This is to allow them to train for, and compete in, the Tokyo Olympic Games, which have been postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MINDEF said in a news release on Tuesday (Aug 11).
"They have also committed to be fully focused in their preparations for the Olympic Games, in order to reach their peak form and will not undertake any additional activities such as commercial sponsorships," MINDEF said.
"Should the Olympic Games be cancelled, they will be scheduled for enlistment."
Schooling and Quah will turn 26 and 25 respectively in 2021.
Schooling won Singapore's first Olympic gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016, winning the 100m butterfly. Quah reached the semi-finals of the 200m butterfly that year.
MINDEF said the Armed Forces Council had approved their applications for extension, adding that the applications were supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
"Both have qualified for the coming Olympic Games – Schooling for the 100m butterfly event, and Quah for the 100m butterfly and backstroke events," said MINDEF.
"Schooling and Quah have met the criteria for deferment to be extended."
MINDEF also reiterated its criteria for granting NS deferment to athletes, noting that it is granted to "exceptional sportsmen who are assessed to be potential medal winners for Singapore at top-tier international competitions like the Olympic Games".
Both Schooling and Quah were scheduled to enlist after the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
But on Mar 24, Japan's prime minister and the head of the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Games by a year due to the global COVID-19 situation.
In April, the president of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee said that the Games would be cancelled if the pandemic was not brought under control by next year.
Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that he was "very happy" that the swimmers' applications were approved.
"The Government is fully supporting their training and preparation in their bid for Olympic success," he said.
"I wish them the very best in their campaigns, and hope that they will continue to inspire national pride among Singaporeans!"