SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singaporean teenager Quah Zheng Wen has been cleared to compete at the world swimming championships and the 2016 Olympics after the Ministry of Defence approved a request to defer his mandatory national service.
The 18-year-old, who won 12 medals, including seven golds at last month’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, was in danger of missing both events because he was due to enlist for national service on Aug. 31.
However, the Armed Forces Council (AFC) issued a statement on Tuesday saying his enlistment had been delayed for a year, allowing him to compete at next month’s world championships in Russia and the Olympics in Rio.
“Mr Quah has satisfied the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsmen who can win honor for Singapore, as his recent performances were better than the most recent Olympic Games’ qualifying times in the 200m butterfly,” the statement said.
“The AFC has therefore decided to grant deferment to Mr Quah from full-time NS (national service) till 31 August 2016, for him to train and participate in the 2016 Olympic Games.”
In 2013, Quah’s team mate Joseph Schooling, who won nine gold medals at the SEA Games, was granted a deferment from national service until after the Rio Olympics.
Singapore has never won an Olympic medal in swimming but Schooling and Quah are looming as the country’s best prospects in years.
“The AFC would like to re-iterate 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,” the statement said.
“Mr Quah will be enlisted for full-time NS when his deferment ends. We wish him success in the 2016 Olympic Games and hope that he will train hard to win a medal for Singapore.”
Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by John O'Brien