Boost for 2015 hopefuls

Boost for 2015 hopefuls
The new funding scheme includes team sports such as netball. This could help Lin Qingyi and her young team-mates gain more exposure through training tours.

SINGAPORE - Local athletes earmarked for glory at the 2015 SEA Games will soon receive additional financial aid to help Singapore haul in the medals as host.

The Sunday Times understands that the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) will disburse funds to give athletes identified as potential champions a boost in the run-up to the biennial Games on home soil 18 months from now.

The SSI will meet various national sports associations in the coming weeks to ascertain how much funds are needed, and how many athletes are likely to benefit.

"It's going to be a home Games, so it's important for us to do something proactively to give whatever support (we can) to those with gold-medal potential," said SSI executive director Fabian Lim.

The funding will benefit athletes who missed out on the Sports Excellence Scholarship, which was awarded to an inaugural batch of 66 athletes earlier this year.

Athletes who aspire to receive aid from the new, as-yet-unnamed scheme will be assessed based on their performance at the recently concluded SEA Games, or track record for those whose sports were not contested in Myanmar.

Extra funding was also given out when Singapore hosted the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010.

Then, each of the 26 participating sports received additional funds of about $100,000 or more.

But instead of being sport-centric, this new scheme for the 2015 Games will be athlete-centric.

"We'll go down to the athlete's level, look at the needs, see what are the gaps in terms of programme and what we can do to bridge the gap," said Lim, adding that team sports will not be overlooked.

It is welcome news for the Republic's netballers, the reigning Asian champions.

Said Netball Singapore's executive director Cyrus Medora: "The national team are now made up of many young players. The more tours they go on, the more exposure they'll get and the better they will be.

"We're looking to put up a really good show on home ground, so hopefully more investment will help."

For judoka Ho Han Boon, who earlier this month clinched Singapore's first judo title at the Myanmar SEA Games in 24 years when he won the men's over-100kg class, it could mean overseas training stints.

At 180kg and 1.92m tall, he struggles to find sparring partners to match his weight class locally. Said the 25-year-old: "It's a very good idea. It'll help athletes whose sports do not get as much funding as others."

Singapore last hosted the SEA Games in 1993, when the Republic's athletes won 50 gold medals - its biggest-ever haul.

The nation's athletes returned from the Myanmar Games this month with 34. Said the SSI's Lim: "We hope to send a signal to Singaporeans that sport is really doing something, and get people to rally behind our sportsmen."

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