Support for elite Singapore athletes will be reviewed

Para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu celebrates winning gold in the women's 50m backstroke S2 race. She won two golds in Rio de Janiero while Theresa Goh claimed a bronze, ensuring that Singapore had its most successful Paralympics.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A first Olympic gold has inspired Singapore to believe in the seemingly impossible for the future, but also got authorities thinking harder about what needs to be done to ensure success is sustained.

While a thorough post-major Games review of policies is routine, a historic outing at the Olympic and Paralympic Games means that there is a greater urgency to understand where gaps still lie.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said yesterday: "This is the kind of discussion we have year after year, asking ourselves, 'Are we doing right, is the fund allocation correct?' And the ministry will continue to do so."

She was speaking to members of the media at the Singapore Sports Hub about the national high performance sports system, following a Rio Games where the Republic won its first Olympic gold, as well as two golds and a bronze at the Paralympics.

She added: "We will not ever say, 'Yes, this is right.' It will (be reviewed) every year, even as we lay down the big anchors, big pieces (of the puzzles), and every year there will be some adjustment and fine-tuning going on.

"All these medals and records inform us about the system out there and there will definitely be a lot of thinking and soul-searching over the next few months."

In his opening address yesterday, Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin recognised that unprecedented results have led to the public appealing for more to be done for athletes.

Among them were calls for greater Government funding for athletes, especially after it came to light that Olympic champion Joseph Schooling's parents forked out more than $1 million of their own on his road to the top of the podium.

To that, Lim said that high performance support for elite athletes is a framework that constantly adapts and it is precisely its evolution that has helped build on Singapore's progress on the world sporting stage today.

The Sports Excellence Scholarship, of which Schooling is a recipient, is the result of constant "sharpening" of the support system.

"If you look closely at that journey, you'll see that a lot has been done, a lot is being done and a lot more will be done," said Lim.

"(There is a) need to continuously enhance, check the effectiveness of what we're doing and the return on investment of what we're getting from what we invest, to conduct a more thorough review post-Rio when we look forward to Tokyo 2020 and for the next round of scholarships."

Progress could provide a clearer picture of what works and what needs tweaking, but the system officials and athletes work with will always be one that does not have unlimited resources.

Paralympians parade for Team Singapore

  • Team Singapore’s para-athletes embarked on a celebratory parade on Saturday (Sept 24) morning.
  • The 13-strong contingent, including three-time Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu, were waved off by over 100 supporters who had woken early to soak up the festive atmosphere at the Sengkang Sports Centre.
  • They made their way from Sengkang to VivoCity, with a pit stop at the National Library along the way.
  • The convoy passed by Sengkang Community Centre, Hougang Sports Centre, Braddell Heights Community Centre, Blocks 43 and 44 at Bendemeer Road and Bugis Junction before arriving at the library.
  • Former Olympian C. Kunalan, 74 said: “These athletes have done something really unique that they’ve been doing for years, but without much support and visibility."
  • Upon arrival at the library, a crowd of over 100 greeted the athletes. They included volunteers from Peace Connect and senior citizens from Kampong Glam, as well as students from Pathlight School.
  • A child poses with the Nila mascot at Vivocity.
  • After leaving the library, the convoy made its way past an enthusiastic cheering crowd at the Pinnacle@Duxton before arriving at VivoCity.
  • At the mall, a crowd of over 400 braved the searing afternoon heat to catch the athletes’ question and answer session.
  • Equestrian para-athlete Laurentia Tan waves to the crowd before going up the stage at Vivocity.
  • Paralympic sailor Yap Qian Yin is congratulated by a photographer.
  • Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, the guest of honour there, thanked them for their efforts and said the country was “super super proud” of the team.
  • She also expressed gratitude for the athletes’ support teams like their families, caregivers and coaches.
  • The parade celebrated the nation’s best-ever performance at the quadrennial Games.
  • At the games, swimmers Yip and Goh won two golds and a bronze respectively, and several others surpassed their personal bests.
  • Supporters take a selfie with equestrian para-athlete Laurentia Tan.
  • The national anthem was also played, marking the end of the festivities, before the athletes mingled with the crowd, taking photos and chatting.
  • The Rio 2016 Paralympians pictured on stage at Sengkang Sports Centre before the celebratory parade.

Support must therefore be given in a sustainable manner, said Minister Fu.

"We have to see how best we can apply those resources in the most effective way in the journey of these aspiring athletes," she said.

Lim added: "We need to get creative, understand where the real value add is and apply the dollar there."

He acknowledged that constant review and fine-tuning will mean there will be "hard decisions to be made", but rejected the notion that non-Olympic sports should then go on the back burner.

"We constantly have to manage between a narrow focus and a broader base... the hard decisions we have to make in telling someone you're not necessarily high priority but you have some level of support - even that requires resources.

"Now (the question is) how do we develop that systemic support that enables us to sustain (success), but also the participation of all segments of Singapore?"

This article was first published on October 01, 2016.
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