The tension between a Singaporean male’s duty to serve two years’ in National Service (NS) and his desire and ability to excel as an athlete is nothing new.
But this was recently brought back into the public discourse in the wake of the Tokyo Olympic Games, after swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, who had been granted long-term deferment from their NS commitments, could not replicate their results from the Rio Games in 2016.
In September, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said that the enlistment process for both swimmers had kicked off following the end of their deferment after this year’s Olympics. This has again ratcheted up debate about whether NS unfairly disadvantages male athletes, and effectively curtails their sporting dreams and ambitions.
We conducted a poll to ascertain the sentiments of the general public on the matter, finding that while 75.5% of people were agreeable to long term deferments being granted to elite athletes, 80.3% of those polled don’t feel that elite athletes should be granted reduced obligations for serving National Service.