More athletes to be recommended for $40m funding

SINGAPORE - Good news for aspiring and professional local athletes: More Sports Excellence Scholarships (SEC) are set to be handed out than initially planned.

The level of talent that has applied for a slice of the $40 million funding pie has impressed selectors who - after making their first cuts - have decided to recommend more than the original number of 60 recipients.

The total quantum of the scheme remains unchanged.

An 11-member High Performance Selection and Performance Sub-Committee had to choose from some 218 nominations across 28 sports.

The initial batch of SEC recipients is expected to be revealed next month.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, who chairs the committee, said the scheme will set itself apart from previous elite athlete programmes, which focused mainly on those with the potential to deliver at the Olympic level.

He told The Straits Times on Thursday: "We have recommended more than 60 deserving athletes; it depends on the approval of the steering committee now.

"MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) and SSC (Singapore Sports Council) are very inclusive and want more people from more sports to benefit from this scholarship. "Even if they are young but have potential, we'll take them in."

Mr Teo was speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural International Youth Sports Science Conference, which was held at Raffles Institution on Thursday.

The SEC shortlist could feature several national footballers. The Straits Times understands that the quartet of Izwan Mahbud, Safuwan Baharudin, Hariss Harun and Safirul Sulaiman had been nominated by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

Other members of team sports like netball and hockey are also likely to feature among the recipients, who will have a tailor-made programme, including coaching, sports science and sports medicine.

The Singapore Hockey Federation is hoping that all 10 applicants from its men's and women's national squads will be selected.

Its president K. Ramamoorthy said: "It is a great initiative to recognise the so-called less popular sports. This will encourage mass participation."

Football, nonetheless, has its own unique place. Mr Teo confirmed that "some progress" has been made towards setting up a special fund to bolster the Republic's chances of winning its first SEA Games football gold in 2015, when it hosts the biennial competition.

Sources said around $15 million - separate from the SEC initiative - will be set aside for this fund which will be helmed by the SSC and FAS.

This will be used for sports science development, sending entire teams on overseas stints as well as securing attachments for promising players with overseas clubs.

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