Singapore's Olympic gold-medallist Joseph Schooling set to begin national service

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Singapore: Singapore's former Olympic champion Joseph Schooling will soon start national service after deferring it for years, officials said Thursday, following the swimmer's disappointing performance in Tokyo.

Schooling caused a sensation at Rio 2016 when he beat Michael Phelps to win the 100m butterfly.

But the city-state's first Olympic champion relinquished his title after failing to qualify in the same event at this year's virus-delayed Tokyo Games.

Singapore requires all male citizens aged 18 to serve two years in the military, the police or the emergency services, an obligation authorities rarely let people skip.

Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, another swimmer who represented Singapore in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, will be enlisted for national service as their deferments ended on 31 August, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement Thursday.

"Such deferment from full-time NS (national service) is granted very selectively for exceptional sportsmen assessed to be potential medal winners at international competitions like the Olympic Games and who are able to bring national pride to Singapore," the ministry said.

Schooling, 26, has deferred national service for seven years. He will be enlisted once necessary procedures have been completed, the ministry added.

Schooling thanked the government for its "non-wavering support" of his swimming career, and added that he planned to continue training.

"Without a doubt, I would not have achieved the results I've had without deferring my national service," he said in a statement on Thursday.

"Right now, I am focused on the present €" to continue training and be the pillar of support for my family. I'll take it one step at a time."

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