Spex scholars unfazed by pressure

Spex scholars unfazed by pressure

They may be the first recipients of top-dollar funding with the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) but athletes like silat's Shakir Juanda and bowling's Shayna Ng are not feeling the weight of expectation.

Instead, they are eagerly anticipating improvements in their training programmes and competitive exposure.

The two are among a group of 10 who have been selected for the top tier of the scheme, making them eligible for grants to the tune of $90,000 in median annual stipends.

The other scholars - there are a total of 66 from 15 sports in this pioneer batch - will qualify for grants of $60,000 and $24,000 in the lower tiers.

Backed by a $40-million war chest over five years and part of a revised High Performance Sports scheme, it is the highest amount ever handed out to national athletes.

Said world champion Shakir, 25: "Things like pressure come along from the beginning if you're in high-performance sport. For me, I take things positively. Even without the scholarship, I will still be training hard and trying my best to win.

"Getting it now just means an advantage in terms of my training programme."

Ng, 24, who is also a world champion, said: "There is pressure but it's good pressure. As athletes, we always must keep ourselves challenged - have a target to hit, things to achieve.

"With the Asian Games coming up next year, we'll be competing quite a bit and the expenses will go up. The scholarship will come in handy for that."

Four-time Paralympic equestrian medallist Laurentia Tan, 34, another scholar in the top tier, added: "I try not to think about it (the pressure). I'll just continue to focus on my training and try to improve."

The trio were among those formally welcomed into the programme on Wednesday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, receiving certificates from Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

In his address, he said: "(The spexScholarship) is our commitment to ensuring all our deserving athletes get the full support and backing of the country."

Giving an update of the scheme since its launch in September, Singapore Sports Institute executive director Fabian Lim said he expects the tailor-made programmes for scholars to start by February.

"This is not just a 12- month-long plan. Some sports are planning all the way to 2016... (so) there's a lot of thinking and discussion that needs to go in place," he added.

"The key for us is to work in close partnership with the national sports associations to get the programme up and running, make sure we're running what we plan to do."


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