Monday, August 15, 2016

Quest for Olympic Medals

Singapore embarked on its quests for Olympic medals many years ago. It started a sports excellence program to develop local and foreign sports talents. It imported foreign athletes and gave them citizenship and special training. It must have invested tens or even hundreds of million dollars over the past years in this quest.

This program did produce some results - a Silver medal in the Beijing 2008 Olympics and 2 Bronze medals in the London 2012 Olympics.

It took a young man with a burning ambition and indomitable determination and the selfless sacrifice, support and love of his parents, to bring the most covered Olympic Gold medal to Singapore. This was achieved outside of the state sponsored program.

Joseph Schooling and his parents, Colin and May, deserve our adulation. We are proud of your achievement and what you have done for Singapore.

Ironically, the state almost obstructed this historic achievement. Joseph was required to spend two years of full time National Service, an obligation that is incumbent on all male citizens. If he had been called up, it would have disrupted his training. Most certainly, he would not have won any medal, let alone the coveted Gold Medal.

Joseph Schooling is invited to attend a Parliamentary sitting in honor of his achievement. It is timely for the government to review its national service policy, in the light of this experience.

Here are my suggestions:

The Schooling family has shown, beyond any doubt, what can be achieved through personal ambition and determination, and the support of the family. The government should encourage this initiative and long term commitment.

It should make it easy for these families to receive deferment of the national service obligations, while the young man pursue a laudable goal. If they achieved the goal, they should be fully exempted from national service. They have already served the nation in a more meaningful way.

Most families would find the financial sacrifice to be unaffordable. The government should find some way to help the family in this quest. It will be a challenge to decide who should or should not be supported. This is not easy but we must try to find a formula.

We can find this formula, but it requires judgment, impartiality and transparency from a selection panel.

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