373 athletes get a leg up

National shooter Martina Lindsay Veloso won a shooting World Cup series in Munich last June and also took part in the Asian Games in Incheon last year.

But the 15-year-old will still be anxious about next month's SEA Games, where she is making her debut and can expect the eyes of an expectant home crowd to be trained on her.

It is a pressure that retired long-distance runner K. Jayamani, who won the women's marathon at the 1983 Games in Singapore, can relate to.

"There's always more anxiety at home but you must learn to take it as it is," said the 59-year-old who was at an event yesterday where Martina, a Singapore Sports School student, was among 373 recipients of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim scholarship.

Jayamani and former discus king James Wong, 46, plus three athletes, held a Q&A session at the event where they spoke about the importance of funding to keep sporting passion alive.

"I received my first scholarship in 1986 and that really inspired me," Wong, a 10-time SEA Games gold medallist, recalled.

"It sparked a fire within me and gave me further hope and determination to succeed.

"Learn to enjoy the suffering during training. When you've fun, you won't think about the pain."

More than $1 million worth of scholarships was given out at ITE College Central yesterday - which eclipsed the previous high of $936,000 disbursed to 320 athletes two years ago.

The awards ranged from $1,000 for primary-school pupils to $5,000 for Under-18 high performance athletes.

Launched in 2010 when $10 million was donated by Singaporean billionaire Lim, the scholarship has seen almost $4 million distributed to 1,450 athletes.

Said Singapore Olympic Foundation chairman Ng Ser Miang: "We're very happy to be able to support young athletes to pursue their dreams.

"I believe that the scholarship itself will be an extra motivation for the athletes, and (for) those who are representing us at the forthcoming Games."

Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin, the guest of honour, handed out some of the awards.

Among the 373 beneficiaries, 60 will be competing at next month's SEA Games, including swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, 18, and sprinter Shanti Pereira, 18.

Said Shanti: "It's a huge incentive and it will help with equipment I need for training."

Martina, who describes the award as an endorsement for her feats in the past year, hopes to reward home fans at the Games. "Other distractions have to be put aside," she said of her quest to be on the podium.


This article was first published on May 5, 2015.
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