Ovation in Parliament, NS deferment extended
SINGAPORE swimmer Joseph Schooling was formally congratulated in Parliament yesterday, capping off a whirlwind day which started with him being received by hundreds of adoring fans in Changi Airport, to receiving news that his national service deferment had been extended.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in a Facebook post on Saturday that Parliament would move a motion to congratulate Schooling on his gold medal win and to express support for Singapore athletes competing in Rio.
Schooling and his parents, Colin and May, were present in Parliament.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who moved the motion in Parliament, said Schooling's achievement marks "a milestone in Singapore's sporting history and a new beginning".
On Saturday, the swimmer beat 23-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps to clinch the 100m butterfly gold. His time of 50.39sec is an Olympic and Asian record.
The historic win exemplifies the Singapore spirit, he said, adding "our never-say-die attitude, and our determination to preserve and succeed against tough odds".
Mr Tan, who is also the Singapore National Olympic Council president, said it shows that even the smallest country can achieve something extraordinary.
MPs Baey Yam Keng, Chris de Souza and Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim also rose to speak in support of the motion.
Then, members in the House gave a 30-second standing ovation to Schooling.
It was the first time that such a motion had been moved. Said Schooling: "I think that was pretty cool for me and my family to have that honour and that chance for everyone to say the things that they said in front of us. It was cool and I had goosebumps."
Schooling, who is scheduled to go back to the United States to continue his studies on Friday, revealed that he is trying to ask for permission from his school to stay longer so he can attend the National Day Rally on Sunday.
Yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Schooling will have his national service deferred till after the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
This will allow him to continue training at the University of Texas in Austin, where he is currently studying, ahead of next year's World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Schooling arrived in Singapore yesterday morning, where he was greeted by hundreds of fans at Changi Airport's Terminal 3.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin and Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Tan Eng Liang were also there to welcome Singapore's first Olympic gold medallist home.