National swimmer Quah Zheng Wen is aiming to make a big splash at the Olympics next year and not just make up the numbers in Rio.
The 18-year-old, who was due to enlist tomorrow, said this after being granted long-term deferment from full-time national service by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) yesterday.
He becomes the second Singapore athlete, after fellow swimmer Joseph Schooling in 2013, to be granted long-term deferment. Both were granted deferment till Aug 31 next year.
This clears the path for Quah to also participate in the World Championships from July 24 to Aug 9. The Rio Games take place from Aug 5 to 21 next year.
"People have always said (to me) to go for the experience at big meets, but I don't want that anymore," said Quah yesterday.
"I've gone to enough big meets and I want to be more than just a participant at the Olympics, like I was in 2012. I've been granted the opportunity and will have a really good chance at that."
Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy welcomed the news, saying: "This will inspire other athletes across all sports to strive harder and push themselves to reach world-class standards."
Quah's application, which included his training schedule and targets, was supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong noted that in the 200m fly, Quah's improvements over the first half of the year "are comparable to what some of the top Olympic swimmers had achieved at a similar age". "So he clearly has the potential to excel at the Olympic level," he added.
Quah met the Olympic "A" time of 1min 56.97sec for the 200m butterfly at the Spanish Open in March, earning him an automatic spot in Rio. He then clocked 1:56.79 at the SEA Games, making him the 15th- fastest qualifier thus far.
The Armed Forces Council (AFC), chaired by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, had reviewed Quah's application and found he had "satisfied the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsmen who can win honour for Singapore".
The Mindef statement added that the AFC's deferment criteria have remained "strict and limited to exceptional cases".
Quah has also met the Olympic "B" cut for five other individual events.
National head coach Sergio Lopez, a bronze medallist at the 1988 Olympics, said: "Now we need to work towards Rio and ensure a cycle (for him) to peak at the right time. The 200m fly is a very good event for him. His 100m back has also improved, coming 1.5 seconds quicker in the last six months. Another 1.5 seconds (cut) again (could mean) a podium at the Olympics."
Japan's Ryosuke Irie won the 100m back bronze in 52.97sec at London 2012. Quah clocked a SEA Games record of 54.51sec in the same event last month.
This article was first published on July 8, 2015.
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