Showcase best talents in push for sporting glory

Showcase best talents in push for sporting glory
Silat athlete Shakir Juanda

SINGAPORE- A world martial arts champion walks among us. He is tipped to bring Singapore glory at the ongoing SEA Games in Myanmar. But many would struggle to pick out 25-year-old silat exponent Shakir Juanda in a crowd.

Shayna Ng is queen of the bowling world. Yet outside Singapore's bowling centres, 2012 world champion Shayna, 24, is not a typical name that easily rolls off the tongue.

The duo are among a rare breed of Singaporeans who hold their own at the top of world sports, and will be counted upon to bring the country glory when the 2015 SEA Games are held here.

The pair are also part of an elite group of 10 who will gain access to the top tier of the Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholarship, the biggest-ever government sports fund. It is part of a scheme to further support the Republic's best athletes and encourage aspiring ones.

An annual median stipend in the region of about $90,000 per athlete - or Spex scholarship holder - on the top tier might not seem much in a sporting world where Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo earns £288,000 (S$591,000) a week.

But in the Singapore context, it is a quantum leap.

For starters, it more than doubles what the nation's creme de la creme received previously. The $40 million investment over five years also casts the net wider, including lower-profile and disabled athletes.

But while this is a significant step forward, there is still much that can be done before talented local athletes start choosing sport as a full-time career without apprehension.

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