She came to us first, insists sports school
Malaysian shuttler, 12, applied for S'pore scholarship, then turned it down. -ST
SINGAPORE - The Singapore Sports School (SSP) has denied accusations that it tried to poach one of Malaysia's top badminton youngsters.
But the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) continues to claim that 12-year-old Goh Jin Wei was offered an attractive scholarship with the sports school, after being talent-scouted at a tournament earlier this year.
Said How Kim Tho, manager of Malaysia's national junior programme: "Jin Wei and her mother had even gone down to Singapore to look at the facilities in the school and met people from the SSP.
"When they decided to turn down the offer, they also went down a second time to tell the sports school in person."
But the SSP maintains that Jin Wei - touted as a successor to Malaysia's former world No. 7 Wong Mew Choo - had applied for the school's Foreign Sports Scholarship (FSS) of her own accord.
Said Irwin Seet, the school's director of sports: "Our school website provides information on a limited number of foreign scholarships offered each year and applicants from overseas need to apply for them on their own. We do not head-hunt, poach or approach potential applicants. Shortlisted applicants go through sports trials, academic tests and an interview to ascertain suitability.
"Jin Wei applied for the FSS and was successful, but she later turned it down as her parents felt that she was too young to be separated from them."
He also noted that the scholarship only provides for education in the secondary section of the school and does not have the ability to guarantee anyone a scholarship all the way to university - much less a spot in the Singapore national team.
The Star newspaper had reported that Jin Wei was made a tempting offer that included a spot in the Singapore national set-up and a scholarship up to university.
According to How, Singapore schools making advances on Malaysian junior shuttlers is not a new phenomenon.
"It is not just the sports school. Other schools in Singapore have also enticed some of our players to go over to Singapore in the last couple of years," he said.
"They approach them during tournaments and even during our national championships."
It is believed that a boy and a girl from Penang - both are 12 - have agreed to join Singapore schools from next year.
The Singapore Badminton Association's (SBA) current national youth team also have a pair of brothers from Malaysia.
Loh Kean Yew, 15, is a student at the Singapore Sports School, while older brother Kean Hean, 17, studies at Montfort Secondary School.
Added How: "We are not surprised, but we are not happy with these attempts behind our backs and we're looking at it quite seriously. We cannot afford to let our talent just drain away like that after we have taken care of them for the last few years."
But it is understood that approaching shuttlers with offers of scholarships in Singapore schools is all done above board.
Said SBA chief executive Bobby Lee: "At the end of the day, the girl (Jin Wei) is not under the BAM. Even if she has a contract with the Malaysian body, anybody can still offer anything and it's up to her to sort it out with the BAM."
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