SINGAPORE - Singapore swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, who was originally due to enlist for National Service (NS) in July, has been allowed to defer his NS obligations to train and participate in the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said that Quah's deferment application was reviewed by the Armed Forces Council (AFC), chaired by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen.
The 18-year-old swimmer had included his training schedule and targets in the application, with the goal to represent Singapore and compete successfully in the swimming competitions of the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Mr Quah has satisfied the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsmen who can win honour for Singapore, as his recent performances were better than the most recent Olympic Games' qualifying times in the 200m Butterfly," MINDEF said in its statement.
The SEA Games' most bemedalled swimmer clocked 1min 56.79sec at the recent SEA Games for the 200m butterfly, qualifying him for an automatic spot at next year's Olympics at Rio.
"I am very happy to have been granted deferment. I am grateful for this opportunity and honoured to be able to represent Singapore at the Olympics in 2016," Quah said.
"It's every athlete's dream to represent their nation at the largest multi-sporting event in the world, and I'm hoping to do my family, friends and country proud in Rio."
MINDEF added in its statement that the criteria for deferment remain strict and limited to exceptional cases.
"The criteria for deferment have not changed and both Mr Schooling and Mr Quah met these criteria," MINDEF said. Dr Ng said in an earlier interview with the media that there must be "a touch of practicality" when it comes to granting NS deferments.
Commenting on Quah's successful NS deferment application, Mr Lee Kok Choy, President of the Singapore Swimming Association said: "This is a great boost not just for swimming, but for sports in Singapore. This decision illustrates the willingness of the government to encourage our athletes and to help them achieve their individual goals in their sporting career. This will only inspire other athletes across all sports to strive harder and to push themselves to reach world-class standard.
"The swimming fraternity is pleased to hear the news and will continue to encourage Zheng Wen in his progress at the upcoming 2015 World Championships in the lead up to the 2016 Olympic Games."
Quah's successful application to defer from NS, which comes after fellow swimmer Joseph Schooling's deferment in 2013, had support from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Quah, who has been accepted to the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, will be enlisted for full-time NS after Aug 31, 2016.