S'pore must invest in top sports talent to succeed

The best of Singapore's athletes will now see the amount of financial support given to them more than double, a move that some local sports officials believe will be well worth the investment.

Such high-level support, they believe, is needed for the Republic's athletes to sustain the results they are just beginning to deliver in major events such as the Olympic Games and Asian Games.

Said Singapore Sailing Federation president Ben Tan: "If you are half-hearted about support, you might not get results."

The former national sailor, who also sits on the steering committee of the High Performance Sports (HPS) system, believes the new Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) is a marked improvement over previous support schemes for athletes.

"This is definitely different from simply throwing cash at an athlete," said Tan. "This scholarship is a lot more holistic than just monetary support.

"If you give an inexperienced athlete a quantum of cash, you will not get returns on investment, not because the athlete is not responsible, but because he or she doesn't know how to spend it to achieve results.

"The improvement is that this programme is structured to get results and there will be a lot more guidance as to how these resources are going to be used."

In the case of the spexScholarship, each of the 66 chosen athletes will get customised programmes tailor-made for them by the Singapore Sports Institute. An additional group of 26 from nine sports have also been shortlisted as potential future scholars. They will be given support over and above what they currently receive through their grants.

Said Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua: "Sport these days is very serious business for everyone. The bar has been raised so high.

"If you're not prepared to invest, don't expect to get the rewards because the next country, the next athlete, is prepared to invest."

Tan hopes the scholarships will be a game-changer, encouraging more local athletes to become full-time sportsmen and sportswomen.

He said: "Going full-time is a big decision for any athlete because it comes with sacrifices. Singaporeans, being well-educated, they have very viable alternatives.

"If that path comes with proper planning, proper support system, wouldn't you be more likely to take it?"

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping, however, sounded a note of caution.

He said: "I think any attempt to provide financial assistance is definitely useful. What's more important eventually is how will it be put to good use.

"That pathway (in pursuing an athlete's sporting dream) needs to be guided, particularly for those who are younger."


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