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Defence Minister: No reason why not to extend NS deferment for Joseph Schooling if conditions are met

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Sunday (14 August) during a community event at Toa Payoh Central, that Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling may continue to have his National Service deferred if he continues to meet the conditions set.

"When we deferred (Schooling) in 2013, so that he could compete, train, compete in the Olympics, it was based on known conditions that I already explained to Parliament. If he continues to meet those conditions, I don't see why not," Dr Ng told Channel NewsAsia.

Back in October 2013, former Member of Parliament, Mr David Ong asked in Parliament if the Ministry of Defence will consider providing a more flexible approach to National Service enlistment for our top male athletes so that they can continue to excel at their sport whilst at their prime.

In response, Dr Ng said,

"Deferment from full-time National Service (NS) may be granted in exceptional circumstances to individual sportsmen, who are assessed to be potential medal winners at international competitions like the Olympic Games and bring national pride for the country. Individuals will have to show why deferment is necessary for them to train full-time and compete successfully at international competitions. Each case will be assessed individually in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Earlier this year, MINDEF received an application from the parents of Joseph Schooling to defer his full-time NS, as he is due for enlistment in 2014. Included in the appeal, were detailed plans which outlined his training schedule and targets with the goal to represent Singapore and compete successfully in the swimming competitions of the 2016 Olympic Games. MCCY supported the appeal for deferment as they assessed that based on his previous achievements in international competitions, Mr Schooling had the potential to do well in the next Olympic Games. As this appeal satisfied all the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsman, the Armed Forces Council has decided to grant deferment to Mr Schooling for full-time NS till 31 August 2016 in order for him to train and do well in the 2016 Olympic Games. Mr Schooling will be enlisted for full-time NS once his deferment ends. We wish Mr Schooling every success and hopes that he will do well in the next Olympic Games."

Redsports wrote in 2013 about Schooling's deferment, saying that it was a rare deferment for a sportsman as the deferment is usually granted only to those who qualify for admission to the National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School, and Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarship holders.

Speaking on calls in support of Schooling's NS deferment, Dr Ng said: "I think we should take it a step at a time. I think, let's see how it unfolds. I think at this point of time, we should really focus and congratulate Mr Schooling for having worked over so many years - and really it's both his efforts, his parents' support, as well as the community, that has allowed him to achieve such heights even at a young age."

"So let's use this moment to just come together and congratulate him and his achievements. On Monday, as we have announced, there is a motion (in Parliament, to formally recognise Schooling's achievement), so I think other questions can wait until then."