SEA Games push not a one-off, says Minister Wong

SEA Games push not a one-off, says Minister Wong
(From left) The Straits Times (ST) sports editor Marc Lim, Fraser and Neave CEO (non-alcoholic beverages) Dato Ng Jui Sia, nominee Jazreel Tan's brother Andrew, nominees Samantha Yom and Bernie Chin, winner Joseph Schooling's father Colin, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, Joseph's mother May, nominee Aloysius Yapp and ST deputy editor Alan John during the ST Athlete of the Year ceremony at Raffles Hotel yesterday.

The SEA Games is the buzzword in the Singapore sports fraternity but leaving behind a legacy for the next generation of elite athletes is just as important a mission.

This ranges from sports science education and sustained financial support to a longer pathway for prospective student-athletes at the Singapore Sports School (SSP), which is in the midst of a review.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong hopes this will lead to a "more comprehensive and robust" high- performance training system for aspiring athletes.

Groundwork has been laid in the form of The Final Push, a one-year support scheme specifically for this year's Games that covers overseas training expenses, training equipment and coaching assistance for more than 200 prospective medal winners.

But this is no one-off, Mr Wong stressed, and comes on top of the Sports Excellence Scholarship, spexTAG (Training Assistance Grant) and spexGLOW (Grant for Loss of Wages) that athletes currently receive. National athletes are also getting direct government funding to the tune of $60 million over five years.

To ensure a steady pipeline of talent in the long run, a key proposal being considered is extending the SSP curriculum from four to six years to allow students to better manage sports and studies.

"Today, they go through a four-year system before taking a national exam, which can be quite disruptive for their training," Mr Wong said on the sidelines of The Straits Times Athlete of the Year ceremony at the Raffles Hotel yesterday. "The idea is to have a six-year programme that will allow them to train hard, study hard and also focus on sports."

Besides the traditional four-year O-level examination route, SSP students can also opt for the International Baccalaureate Diploma, which began last year, or the Republic Polytechnic-SSP Diploma programme.

Mr Wong added that the review, which will be released in the second half of the year, will also look into how the school can work with polytechnics and universities, both at home and abroad, to give SSP students more academic options.

Singapore National Olympic Council athletes' commission chairman Yip Ren Kai backed the shift to a six-year pathway.

He said: "It will help athletes better plan for their future and get them to stay in sports for a longer period. It should also help prepare them for the workforce and give them the life skills to succeed after their sporting careers are over."

At the 2013 SEA Games, 15 of Singapore's 34 golds came from SSP student-athletes and alumni.


This article was first published on Mar 6, 2015.
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