Friday, 10 July 2015

Swimmer Quah Zheng Wen gets to defer NS

Long-term deferment clears the way for Zheng Wen to compete in Olympics next year
By Charles Ong, The Straits Times, 8 Jul 2015

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.

NS deferment for exceptional talents

We refer to recent reports on deferment for our national sportsmen with national service obligations.

To support Singapore's efforts in hosting the 28th SEA Games this year, our sportsmen with national service obligations were granted short-term deferments and time off for them to train and perform their best.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) work closely to assess deferment applications from our national sportsmen.

Every application must include training schedules and targets, and explain why deferment is absolutely necessary.

If the sportsman does not meet the targets, we will review whether to continue the deferment.

Given Singapore's small population, national servicemen form the backbone of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Each year, tens of thousands of full-time national servicemen serve with pride and commitment.

MINDEF receives a number of deferment requests from those wanting to pursue their aspirations in various fields, including the arts, academic pursuits and sports.

To be fair to the rest who dutifully serve their national service, long-term deferments from full-time national service are considered very selectively and only for individuals with exceptional talent who have the potential to achieve national pride for Singapore.

The deferment has to take into consideration the operational needs of the SAF for national defence.

We can grant deferment to only a small number of people so that the SAF's operational readiness is maintained.

Teo Eng Dih
Director Manpower
Ministry of Defence
ST Forum, 4 Jul 2015

* National swimmer Quah Zheng Wen granted second national service deferment till after 2020 Olympics
Mindef grants extension for 19-year-old swimmer to focus on training for Tokyo Games
By Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, 23 Sep 2016

Singapore swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, whom former national coach Sergio Lopez once said "has the same potential" as Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, has a clear runway ahead to soar at the 2020 Olympics.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced on Facebook that the Ministry of Defence has extended the 19-year-old's national service deferment until after the Tokyo Games.

Quah's deferment had expired at the end of last month. The announcement comes a month after Olympic 100m butterfly champion Schooling was granted a second deferment to prepare for Tokyo.

Dr Ng said: "I spoke to Zheng Wen and his father. I thanked them for their commitment to excellence, the many hours of training Zheng Wen has put in and many more needed for the next four years, for him to win at Tokyo 2020.

"I wished Zheng Wen the very best in his training and his ambition to win glory for Singapore."

Quah, who reached two semi-finals in three events at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, said: "I'm deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be able to train full-time and dedicate myself to doing my best and making our nation proud.

"With the extended deferment, it gives me the peace of mind to continue to train hard and work towards my goal of Tokyo 2020."

Quah, who holds four individual national records, enjoyed a good outing in Rio, where he was competing in his second Olympics. There, he reached the semi-finals of the 100m and 200m butterfly. The 16 fastest swimmers from the heats qualify for the semi-finals, while the top eight make the final.

His personal best times in the 100m and 200m fly stand at 52.08sec and 1min 56.01sec respectively. The Olympic winning time for both events are 50.39sec and 1min 53.36sec.

Assistant national coach Gary Tan said the deferment gives Quah the opportunity to get an ideal four-year training cycle under his belt, somewhat similar to what Schooling enjoyed when he was first granted deferment from national service in 2013.

This means the ability to prepare without interruption for major international meets, including the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and two world championships next year and in 2019 in the lead-up to Tokyo.

Competing in these meets, said Tan, would give the swimmer greater exposure and, more importantly, a good indication of where he stands compared with the world's best.

A two-time Olympian, Tan said: "By making two semi-finals at the Olympics, he has shown that he is among the world's best and that there is a lot of potential in him. What he can achieve in Tokyo is entirely up to him.

"We will be sitting down with Zheng Wen to discuss our plans moving forward... (ensuring) we have the best system and support in place for him.

"(The deferment) will not only motivate him but I believe it will (also) motivate other swimmers as well to continue to train hard and achieve their dreams."


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