By Jose Raymond
When national table tennis player Clarence Chew was denied another deferment from his National Service (NS) commitments, it killed his medal dreams at next April’s Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games five months following that.
What’s worse, the rejection of his deferment also meant that he was not able to complete his diploma course at the Republic Polytechnic (RP), where he was on a special 5-year programme to help Singapore national athletes better balance their training commitments with academics. 2010 Youth Olympic Games table tennis darling Isabelle Li was another athlete who was on the specially tailored programme at RP.
21-year-old Clarence Chew had sought a deferment from his NS commitments so that he could complete his studies and also represent Singapore at the two major Games next year.
By rejecting his appeal and not allowing him the opportunity to represent Singapore and complete his studies, the relevant agencies have sent all the wrong signals to potential national athletes and their families, in that it doesn’t pay to invest in sports at all.
It is disappointing that after all these years, we still haven’t understood the value of sports and the sacrifices our athletes and their families go through just to bring glory to the country.
Wouldn’t a better solution have been for Clarence to finish his studies, which would also have allowed him to swing for Singapore at the two major Games next year, and then serve out his NS commitments?
It would be more meaningful to stop taking singular positions, and start finding common interests, for the benefit of Singapore.
A Government’s role is to help its citizens achieve their hopes and not be a destroyer of dreams.
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