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Training restrictions during NS will seriously impact Joseph Schooling's career, say ex-national swimmers

Every training session counts when you are at the highest level, say those who spoke to CNA.

Training restrictions during NS will seriously impact Joseph Schooling's career, say ex-national swimmers

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling at the 2018 SEA Games in Indonesia. (Photo: TODAY/Nuria Ling)

SINGAPORE: Not allowing Joseph Schooling time off to train while in National Service (NS) will have serious repercussions on the Olympic champion's career, said former national swimmers whom CNA spoke to.

The decision was made by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) following Schooling's admission that he consumed cannabis overseas in May, while on short-term disruption from NS to train and participate in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Given this "abuse of disruption privileges", Schooling will no longer be eligible for leave or disruption to train as well as compete while in NS, said MINDEF on Tuesday (Aug 30).

The 27-year-old enlisted for NS in January this year.

Schooling and fellow national swimmer Amanda Lim had been investigated by the Central Narcotics Bureau for possible offences related to the consumption of cannabis.

Both their urine tests came back negative. 

Lim, 29, received a stern warning for possessing a "drug utensil", Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Thursday.


Retired athletes emphasised to CNA the need for Schooling to train consistently to maintain a high level of performance at the elite level.

In an interview with CNA in April, Schooling said his training schedule allowed him time in the pool twice a day - before he books into camp, and after he books out. He would also train on Saturdays.

"Given the circumstances where his privileges of coming out to train have been taken away, I think it's going to be very hard, especially for him, to retain the kind of level that he's used to," said 19-time SEA Games champion David Lim, adding that this could make things "ten-fold" more difficult for Schooling.

"At this level, the margins are so small. It is that extra few sessions a week that you put in that will give you the small margin, the edge."

Ex-national swimmer Tao Li also pointed out that each and every session counts. Should Schooling only be able to train on weekends, it would not be enough, she noted.

"You have to do like probably 10 sessions a week to keep at your level. If one or two days you’re not training, it makes a huge difference," she explained.

"Training is the foundation. The basic of basics. If you don't have training, no matter how talented you are, (there is) no point."

The 32-year-old Tao, who remains Singapore's only female swimmer to qualify for an Olympic final, said different training sessions serve different purposes.

"Every day (you have) different targets. Today we're doing long distance, the other day we're doing sprints. You miss one day, the other day you need to make up again," she stressed.

"At the highest level, you need to maintain (your level of excellence), before you can improve."

Former Olympian May Ooi said that only being able to train on weekends would effectively cripple one's career in "ways that cannot be recovered".

"You can't afford to only train two days a week, and try to maintain that competitiveness. Swimming is not one of those sports where you can do that," she explained.

Training on weekends only would mean that one is no longer a high-level athlete, said Lim. "You are a weekend swimmer ... You may not even make the team."


Tao, a multiple Asian Games medallist, said Schooling would also have expectations of himself.

"Maybe you make SEA Games, you make it on the team or you get a gold medal. What’s your expectations? But for him, he definitely doesn't want just the SEA Games level," she said.

"For Jo, the goal is different and people's expectations are different. When I was competing … 20 of us are going (to a meet) but they only look at you. They want the result from you. They are only writing about you, whether you are doing okay or badly."

She recalled how she had stopped competing despite clinching five gold medals at the 2015 SEA Games and making the 'B' qualifying mark for the 2016 Olympics.

"Even though I could go (to the Olympics) but I didn't feel that there was a need. If I just went there for top 16, or I cannot be better than the 2008 Games, there's no point for me to go," said Tao.

"People only look at the results, whether you're good or you're bad or you perform or you don’t."

She and Lim both noted the possibility of Schooling calling time on his career.

"(It's) for him to make the decision, but most likely I don't think he will continue," said Tao.

Lim said that nobody would come out on top of current circumstances.

"What’s the point of going to major Games when you are ill-prepared and you get flak from everybody?" he said.

"I don’t even see a win-win situation here, it's more of a lose-lose-lose situation … For us as supporters, for Singaporeans, for Jo himself, for the sport itself."

Are public sentiments towards Schooling's drug use a sign of shifting attitudes?

Source: CNA/mt(jo)


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