The Ministry of Culture Community and Youth (MCCY) does not favour individual sports over team sports when it comes to assessing athletes who are applying to defer their National Service (NS) enlistment dates, said Minister for Culture Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament on Monday (6 August).
“Across all sports we objectively assess the NSAs’ (National Sports Associations) development plans and targets, as well as the performance and potential of the athletes,” said Fu. Factors to be considered for team sports include the robustness of the NSAs’ development plans for the team, as well as the individual athlete’s role and potential contribution to the national team.
Fu added, “If there are sporting talents who are part of this squad, and who demonstrate commitment to representing Singapore and serving NS, MCCY is prepared to work with Mindef to evaluate NS deferment applications or training privileges during NS so that the athletes can train together with the rest of the squad.”
The minister was responding to parliamentary questions on how MCCY supports athletes seeking NS deferment to pursue their sporting ambitions.
Only three sportsmen have been granted NS deferments in the past 15 years: swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, and sailor Maximilian Soh. Earlier, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told the House that Mindef will only defer individuals “very selectively” if their deferment serves Singapore’s interests first and foremost.
This is in order to preserve equity for all national servicemen. For the three athletes granted deferment, “clear expectations” were laid out. “Neither was deferment open-ended nor unconditional. They will have to return to serve NS, and if they do not meet the standards agreed upon, deferment will be curtailed,” said Ng.
The Defence Minister also elaborated on various ways that the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has supported both team and individual athletes who are serving NS. For example, athletes competing in the 2015 and 2017 editions of the SEA Games were allowed to enlist later so that they could participate in the tournaments first. Those already enlisted were also given time off to train.
For the upcoming Asian Games in August, so far, 10 servicemen so far have been given a short postponement of their enlistment of a few weeks, added Ng.