Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Mr Lawrence Wong given a ride on a sailing boat as part of the event where the first batch of SpEx scholars were announced (photo by VOXSPORTS).
Sixty-six athletes across 15 sports, chosen by the High Performance Sports (HPS) Steering Committee, will receive the Sports Excellence Scholarship (SpExScholarship) after displaying immense potential for international sporting achievements in their individual fields.
In addition to these 66 scholarship recipients, the HPS Steering Committee has bookmarked 26 other athletes from nine sports who have shown potential to grow to the level of a SpExScholar, and will also provide them with support.
In a unique media announcement session held at the Singapore Sailing Federation Pontoon at Marina Bay, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Mr Lawrence Wong engaged with selected athletes benefiting from the scheme in an afternoon of sailing.
Says Mr Wong, who is also the chairman of the HPS Steering Committee, of the decision to invest more in the country’s sportsmen and sportswomen, “Overall, we want to be among the top few sporting nations in Asia.”
The scholarship will be effected as part of a $40 million budget under the HPS Scheme, to be used over the next five years, in what Mr Wong calls a “major and significant enhancement to [the] High Performance [Sports] System”.
“We are putting in more investments, and it is improved from what we have done before in three ways: it’s more inclusive… it’s more extensive in coverage… and it’s more comprehensive in terms of the level of support we are giving each athlete.”
Mr Wong was referring to the scheme including disabled athletes this time around, awarding them the same amount of support as their able bodied peers. The support given to individual athletes is also not restricted to just monetary awards or coaching assistance, but also educational support for the athletes who are still schooling.
High Profile Athletes
High profile athletes who have been chosen for the scholarship include paddler Feng Tian Wei, who currently stands at number four in the world and is an Olympic medalist, bowling world champion Shayna Ng and silat world champion Shakir Juanda. Laurentia Tan, a four-time Paralympic equestrian medalist, is also part of the group.
In response to as to why the scheme only includes selected sports when there are many promising athletes from a range of other sports, Mr Wong says, “We didn’t come with a view that we were only going to cover a few sports… We looked at each application on its own merit.”
Due to the overwhelming response during the application process, where more than 200 sportsmen and sportswomen submitted their applications to the committee, the HPS Steering Committee decided to create a separate group “to identify those with the potential to become scholars in the next round… [those who are] very promising, [but] not quite meeting the mark today.”
“We wanted to give them a signal and a motivation, and hope they will train hard,” asserts Mr Wong on the decision to add the group of 26 athletes under the scheme, a move which was not originally planned.
To do this, he sought the help of Ministry of Trade and Industry Minister of State Mr Teo Ser Luck to process the application, as well as to assess the athletes during their interviews.
Says sailor Kimberly Lim, a beneficiary of the scheme who was sailing the boat Mr Wong was on: “I’m very glad they brought [the event] to sailing as sailing is quite an unknown sport… I’m very honoured they are acknowledging the achievements and successes I’ve had in the past, and I think it’ll be very helpful for me to achieve more in the future.”
A further 26 athletes from 9 sports have been identified as having the potential to one day become a SpEX scholar, and hence will also reap the benefits of the new scheme under the ministry (photo by VOXSPORTS).