Speaking to reporters at the sidleines of the Singapore Sports Awards yesterday, Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling shared that he “empathised” with Fulham footballer Benjamin Davis and advised Davis to “follow his dreams, follow his heart and do what he needs to do”.
This, after the Davis’ request to defer his National Service was rejected by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and after MINDEF accused the family of the 17-year old of having “no intention of returning to fulfill their son’s NS duties,” in spite of Davis’ father’s assurances that his son will complete his NS.
Schooling – who was crowned Singapore’s Sportsman of the Year for the fifth time yesterday – is one of three local athletes who have been granted long-term NS deferment in the past 15 years.
Noting that his situation is different from Davis’, the 23-year-old swimming champion said: “It’s definitely been a difficult situation for him. My advice to him would be to follow his dreams, follow his heart and do what he needs to do.
“I come from a different sport, I was in a different situation. I can’t advise him on what to do. Obviously, he should get together with his parents, decide what’s the best plan for himself and go from there.”
Revealing that his own experience of getting his NS deferment was “tough” for both himself and his family, Schooling added: “But I believe in what we are trying to do…People have all these things in place, everyone wants to do the right thing. But for me, I was very happy so that I can achieve my dreams and my goals.
“I’m very fortunate to have help from MCCY (Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth), MINDEF, SSA (Singapore Swimming Association). Ultimately I achieved my goal, so I’m very lucky in that aspect.”