Is representing Singapore in sports equivalent to doing National Service (NS)?
Days after this bold suggestion by his mother, Singapore’s top swimmer Joseph Schooling gave his own take on the continuing dialogue over his deferment from NS.
“I’m not in the right position to make that call,” the 18-year-old told Yahoo Singapore, after his Southeast Asian (SEA) Games send-off ceremony on Saturday.
“But I’m doing this because I love my country. I want to bring pride and glory to my country.”
That will take shape in a first-ever medal for Singapore at the 2016 Olympics: the lofty goal that Schooling has now devoted his life to, minus -- for now -- a two-year military stint that all Singaporean men undergo.
The US-based high school student added, “If you ask me if swimming itself is a form of NS, I couldn’t answer that question.”
“It’s not up to me. My job is to swim,” he said.
Whatever it takes
Few would deny that Schooling has done a fine job so far.
At 16, the butterfly specialist won two gold medals at the 2011 SEA Games and became an Olympian just a year later. He now holds five individual national records in the 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley, and 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly events.
Even as the teenager revealed his ambition for a six-gold medal haul at December’s SEA Games in Myanmar, he also moved to highlight his willingness to eventually complete what is expected of him.
“I want to do something special for Singapore, in terms of the Olympics,” he said. “And if that means taking more time to swim and after that, coming back and serving NS for two years, I’ll do it.”
The 1.84m-tall athlete is level-headed beyond his years, a trait made all too clear as he addressed the presence of detracting remarks over his pursuit of sporting excellence.
“I’m always open to criticism,” said the affable 2012 Sportsman of the Year. “I listen and I think what I can do to use that criticism to my advantage.”
And whatever the naysayers hurl at him, one formula seems to work every single time.
“I’ll just train harder,” declared Schooling. “And prove you guys wrong.”
Joseph Schooling and the rest of Singapore's national swimmers launch their SEA Games campaign on 12 December. Catch all the action at the 2013 Games from 5 - 22 December in Myanmar, here on Yahoo Singapore.
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