Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen granted extension to NS deferment
Olympic-bound duo get extension to NS deferment, allowing them to focus on prep
Extensions were granted to the national service (NS) deferments of Olympic-bound swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) announced yesterday.
It said in a statement that both athletes' applications for extensions for the Tokyo Games - postponed by a year due to the coronavirus crisis - were approved by the Armed Forces Council, and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
Mindef also extended its best wishes to the pair "as they pursue national pride for Singapore in the Olympic Games in 2021".
Reigning 100m butterfly champion Schooling, 25, and Quah, 23, were both granted long-term deferment from NS to compete at this year's Summer Games, originally scheduled for July 24-Aug 9.
Should next year's July 23-Aug 8 Games be cancelled, both swimmers will be scheduled for enlistment, said Mindef.
The ministry added: "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."
Both athletes' existing commercial sponsorships are not affected by the extension, said Mindef.
Schooling, who was first granted deferment in October 2013 for the 2016 Olympics which was later extended, said he was thankful to Mindef and MCCY for their support.
He added: "This will allow me to continue unhindered on my Olympic journey. Training has always been and remains my first priority."
After struggling with his form and fitness last year, Schooling admitted in a Zoom dialogue session last month that he did not think he was ready to head into Tokyo 2020, and that the extra year has given him a "big boost".
His time of 52.93 seconds at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July last year meant he failed to even make the semi-finals. Caeleb Dressel of the United States won gold in 49.66sec in the final.
Schooling had set an Olympic record of 50.39sec en route to winning gold at the 2016 Rio Games.
Singapore Swimming Association technical director Sonya Porter welcomed the news, saying it "takes away any ambiguity" and allows the athletes to focus on their preparations.
She said both Schooling and Quah had "kept on pushing physically and mentally" throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and the difficulties that arose with it.
Earlier this month, Zheng Wen and his younger sister Jing Wen, 19, returned to the United States to continue their university studies. Schooling will remain here until given the all-clear to head back to US and his home base in Virginia to train under his coach Sergio Lopez.
Porter added: "The plan continues for both with training progressions and hopefully competitive opportunities in the near future with focus on performance outcomes for the (Olympics).
"The deferment extension this week gave clear expectations and reinforced their focus to stay on track to fulfilling the journey representing Singapore on the biggest sporting stage."
MCCY Minister Edwin Tong said in a Facebook post yesterday he was "very happy" that the extensions 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!"