In 1982, Ang Peng Siong became the first, and since then the only, Singaporean to hold the world number one ranking in the 50m freestyle with a time of 22.69 seconds for 33 years until it was broken by Schooling at the 2015 SEA games.
He was awarded the ’the world fastest swimmer’ title in 1982, dubbed Asia’s ‘Flying Fish’. He would go on to bring the name of Singapore in world events, including the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and 1988 Seoul Olympics.
During his peak as an athlete at the end of 1986 he was drafted into National Service (NS). It was found out in an interview that as a Naval officer he had suffered from heat exhaustion during an 8km route march and had caved-in to pneumonia later.
After an appeal by the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association (SASA), finally he managed to get a six-month deferment to participate in the 1988 Seoul games. There, in his own words, he was “devastated”. He missed the finals by one place after coming in ninth place..
Ang, who is a former coach of Yip Pin Xiu, said that sport is about bringing the nation together and celebrating together.
On his Facebook page Schoolings wrote that he was thankful for what Ang had done and wrote, "Uncle Ang Peng Siong you are a legend in your own way. Without former athletes like you that helped paved the way, the success will not have happened. Thank you."
Many Singaporeans recall him as a great swimmer and thank him for what he had done for the country. They regretted the Government's decision to send him to join the NS. Here are what they said :
- SG Subbuteo wrote, "No words can describe what our very own Ang 'Flying Fish' Peng Siong has done for Singapore swimming. We have swimming pools here because of him!! Medal or not is no matter... its what you have contributed to us. Joseph is a subject of your excellence n affirmation of what you have started for Singapore Swimming."
- Jennifer Tan wrote, "That's when you have bureaucrats handling issues that require flexibility, and who are mainly only interested in covering their asses to follow the rule to the point., and only appear when there is glory (obviously not theirs) to claim.
As one blogger has written, all these military people, people in high positions, ministers with no affinity to the sports should be kicked out. Look at the FAS, which had screaming crowds decades ago. Even Fandi wants to be out again now.
Peng Siong is a legend. Without him, there would not have been the flourishing of the swimming, resulting in a Schooling today. Also without a kickass mom, to insist on the deferment of his NS, Schooling may have gone down in history not winning this goal. Without Peng Siong, Singapore may have then imported foreign talents like they did for the other sports, claiming that there is NO talent in Singapore."
- Paul Warner wrote, "Don't forget Peng Siong won the 'B' 100 free final at the LA Games in 1984 despite his pet event the 50m free (when he was ranked No 1 in the world) only being introduced four years later. A true Singapore sporting legend alongside the likes of Fandi and Junie Sng!"
- Eliz Tan wrote, "Luckily the present generation of decision makers in Mindef were persuaded by Joseph's mum to defer his NS. Those who mishandled Ang Peng Siong and ruined his chances need to reflect that their decisions have robbed Ang and Singapore of an earlier Olympic medal."
- Yiheng Ciaran Chia wrote, "You are fortunate, Jo Schooling. Back then Uncle Peng Siong didn't get a further NS deferment for the 1988 Olympics when his pet event was first introduced. He would have achieved something as yours back then."
- Jo Lim wrote, "Ang Peng Siong, you are a legend in my books. What you did back then representing Singapore in the Olympics had surpassed anyone's imagination. Just a pity there's no social media back then for people to express their gratitude and respect."
- Ben Lim wrote, "National Service.. is not just doing army to protect the country. Anyone talent individual who can bring Singapore to the Global stage should be considered doing "National a Service". It won't be a big pool of people. What different when you send people to MDC in the army when they are also making their talents to serve."
- Dan Phua wrote, "I saw Peng Siong swam 50 free at Toa Payoh, it was like a tsunami, but NS killed his strokes, he could have won gold for 50 freestyle."
- Elsie Lim wrote, "Ang Peng Siong, you are the greatest legend. Your name will go down in Singapore swimming history. Thank you for all your contributions for local swimming."
- Eli Tay wrote, "Yes. we must remember APS our veteran swimmer for Singapore. our PM n ministers must know what APS done n contribute for Singapore not only Joseph Schooling done too."
- Alex Loh wrote, "We need athletes like Peng Siong and Joseph to show that they are doing it for the country, they show their pride and their commitments. Not come and go ones who are doing it for financial purposes."