Dear ASS Editors,
While I was read Singapore swimming legend Ang Peng Siong’s story of how National Service ended his swimming career and Olympic dreams I couldn’t help but shed a tear for this supremely talented Singaporean.
I shudder at the thought of how many other talented Singaporeans suffered this cruel fate of having to cut short their Olympic potential because they had to serve 2 years of uncompromising National Service.
How often have our Government paid lip service to Singaporeans, saying they support the sports but end up killing the dreams of our sportsman one by one?
How often have we been asked to give up on our sporting or artistic dreams to pursue an engineering job instead? Ang Peng Siong’s recollection of how NS hurt his physical body and dented his chances of success in the Olympics is perfect example of this cruel system we live in.
How can we be loyal to a country that doesn’t enable us to do well?
This is a short excerpt of Ang Peng Siong’s recent interview and everyone should read it.
“In the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, he won the gold in the 100m freestyle. At the Los Angles Olympics in 1984 he competed in the 100m freestyle, winning the ‘B’ consolation finals. He was ranked fourth in the World Swimming Championship in Madrid in 1986. Just when he was peaking, he was drafted into National Service at the end of 1986. He was physically fit for his Basic Military Training in Pulau Tekong but it was tough. When his fellow recruits were asked to do 50 pushups, he was asked to do 200 push ups. For someone who trained in water for years, the military exercises exerted a toll on his physical being. In an 8km route march, he was down with heat exhaustion.
After BMT, he went on to train as a naval officer. Here he would collapse from pneumonia and was hospitalised, his body finally giving way to the months of accumulated military training. It was at this point that he asked to be deferred from National Service for the Seoul Olympics. He spoke to his Commanding Officer who tried to discourage him. On his behalf, the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association, SASA, appealed to Mindef, which conceded to a six-month deferment. He was sent along with a handful of swimmers for intensive training in the States. The Seoul Olympics in 1988 was especially significant because it was the first time the 50m freestyle was introduced in the Olympics. Ang Peng Siong would finally get a chance to compete in a swimming event almost tailored for his body. In the heats, he clocked a time which placed him in the ninth place. He had missed the finals by one place.
While a miss is as good as a mile and in the annals of Olympic history, there are many athletics with more compelling and heartbreaking stories, this missed opportunity was almost impossible for Peng Siong to bear. He broke down. And he would cry when he related this episode in his life.”