Singapore, Monday, October 21, 2013 – Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling, 18, has been allowed to defer his National Service (NS) by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). All Singapore-born males aged 16 and a half years and above are required to serve full time for two years in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force, or the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
“MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) 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,” said defence minister Dr Ng Eng Hen in a reply to a parliamentary question asked by Mr David Ong Kim Huat, a member of parliament.
Joseph, an old boy of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), set four Singapore national open records this year and three of them place him in the all-time top five of Americans aged 17–18 years of age. He was the American national high school record holder in the 100 yards butterfly with a time of 46.5s that was only recently broken in September 2013 by Caeleb Dressel with a 45.89s.
In the 100m butterfly, Joseph’s time of 52.33s places him behind only the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps (51.10s), and ahead of former world record holder Ian Crocker, in the American age-group rankings.
Joseph’s time of 1 minute 56.27 seconds in the 200m butterfly and 1:59.99 in the 200m individual medley also rank him third and fifth in the all-time top 100 of Americans aged 17–18 years.
Joseph, who has been studying at The Bolles School in Florida, USA, since 2012, beat the American 11-time Olympic medalist, Ryan Lochte, in a 100m butterfly race at the Speedo Southern Zone Sectionals earlier this year on March 15, 2013. Joseph clocked 54.71s to Ryan’s 55.20s.
Said Dr Ng: “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.
“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,” said Dr Ng.
“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),” added Dr Ng.
This is a rare deferment for a sportsman as it 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.
Sailor Justin Liu Xiaman was granted an NS deferment in 2010 so that he could train for the 2010 Asian Games. Justin teamed up with Sherman Cheng Feng Yuan to eventually win the Double Handed Dinghy 420 gold.
In the same year, long jumper Matthew Goh had his request for an NS deferment of three months turned down. Matthew, the national record holder, leaped 7.62m at the 2009 Laos South-east Asian (SEA) Gamesto set the record. Matthew had wanted to take part in the Asian Junior Championships and World Junior World Championships. The then defence minister, Mr Teo Chee Hean, said in parliament that “the circumstances were not exceptional to warrant granting of deferment.” He was replying to a question asked by former national swimmer Joscelin Yeo in her capacity as a nominated member of parliament.