Thursday 26 September 2013

Sports Excellence Scholarship awarded to first batch of 66 athletes

Top athletes join first-ever $90k club
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2013

A GROUP of about 10 of Singapore's best athletes are now part of a ground-breaking $90,000 club, after being selected for the top tier of the inaugural Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship).

The amount - the median annual stipend awarded - is the highest ever handed out to national athletes and is more than double the monetary support top athletes previously received.

The Straits Times understands that world No. 4 paddler and Olympic medallist Feng Tianwei, world champions Shayna Ng (bowling) and Shakir Juanda (silat) as well as four-time Paralympic equestrian medallist Laurentia Tan are in this elite group.

They are among the 66 athletes across 15 sports announced by the Singapore Sports Council yesterday. The scholarship, backed by a $40 million war chest over five years, is part of a revised High Performance Sports (HPS) scheme.

The aim of the added investment is to provide Singapore's finest with the tools to do the country proud, said Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong yesterday. It comes at a time when Singapore athletes have been winning regularly at the Asian and Olympic level.

"Overall, we want to be among the top few sporting nations in Asia," Mr Wong told reporters at Marina Bay, where he spent a day out sailing with national athletes.

Apart from financial support, athletes will also get education support and assistance in career preparation, as well as help in personal and life skills development.

The athletes were selected by an 11-member steering committee headed by Mr Wong, following a selection process which started in April. "We're putting in more investments," added Mr Wong. "It's more extensive in scope and covers more athletes."

Athletes in the exclusive $90,000 group were selected based on them having proven their ability internationally at the very top level in their sport.

Those who have not yet made their mark at the top qualify for annual grants of $60,000 (for those with proven records on the continental stage) and $24,000 (regional stage).

Unlike previous high performance support schemes, the HPS system takes into consideration both able-bodied and disabled athletes across all performance levels.

Athletes from sports with a traditionally lower profile, such as canoeing and gymnastics, as well as non-Olympic sports like bowling and silat, will now find parity with the bigger boys.

The scholarship will go a long way in persuading young athletes to continue pursuing sport as a viable career option.

Said Olympic shooter Jasmine Ser, 23, who will train full-time after graduating from the National University of Singapore in December: "Now I can focus on training and see where the next three years lead me. It makes the next Olympics more realistic."

Singapore must invest in top talent to succeed
Sports officials feel spexScholarship is the way to go to achieve results
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2013

THE best of Singapore's athletes will now see the amount of financial support given to them more than double, a move that some local sports officials believe will be well worth the investment.

Such high-level support, they believe, is needed for the Republic's athletes to sustain the results they are just beginning to deliver in major events such as the Olympic Games and Asian Games.

Said Singapore Sailing Federation president Ben Tan: "If you are half-hearted about support, you might not get results."

The former national sailor, who also sits on the steering committee of the High Performance Sports (HPS) system, believes the new Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) is a marked improvement over previous support schemes for athletes.

"This is definitely different from simply throwing cash at an athlete," said Tan. "This scholarship is a lot more holistic than just monetary support.

"If you give an inexperienced athlete a quantum of cash, you will not get returns on investment, not because the athlete is not responsible, but because he or she doesn't know how to spend it to achieve results.

"The improvement is that this programme is structured to get results and there will be a lot more guidance as to how these resources are going to be used."

In the case of the spexScholarship, each of the 66 chosen athletes will get customised programmes tailor-made for them by the Singapore Sports Institute. An additional group of 26 from nine sports have also been shortlisted as potential future scholars. They will be given support over and above what they currently receive through their grants.

Said Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua: "Sport these days is very serious business for everyone. The bar has been raised so high.

"If you're not prepared to invest, don't expect to get the rewards because the next country, the next athlete, is prepared to invest."

Tan hopes the scholarships will be a game-changer, encouraging more local athletes to become full-time sportsmen and sportswomen.

He said: "Going full-time is a big decision for any athlete because it comes with sacrifices. Singaporeans, being well-educated, they have very viable alternatives.

"If that path comes with proper planning, proper support system, wouldn't you be more likely to take it?"

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping, however, sounded a note of caution.

He said: "I think any attempt to provide financial assistance is definitely useful. What's more important eventually is how will it be put to good use.

"That pathway (in pursuing an athlete's sporting dream) needs to be guided, particularly for those who are younger."

6 canoeists get scholarship boost
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2013

CANOEING may not be among the high-profile sports when it comes to Singapore's medals at major Games.

Yesterday, however, the sport found itself among the biggest winners when the list of Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) recipients was announced.

The sport had six athletes named among a total of 66 who formed the first batch of scholars.

Other sports such as gymnastics (seven) and non-Olympic sports like bowling (seven) and silat (three) were also included.

Disability sports also had seven athletes named as scholars.

Singapore Canoe Federation president Yip Kwan Guan said the move represented a milestone achievement.

"We feel very honoured that our athletes are able to break that barrier. They've worked very hard for it," he said.

For a national sport association that does not usually get the lion's share of annual grants, this means athletes will now be able to tap into additional funding in their pursuit of high performance.

Said Yip: "This will help us have the financial muscle to give the athletes better support in terms of training needs, such as training camps and tournaments.

"Countries like China, Japan and South Korea have the ability to compete at the top level where they are on a par with the giants of the sport.

"We also want to come up to this level of excellence."

No comments:

Post a Comment