This year, 289 youth athletes will receive the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship. Athletes from road cycling, ice hockey, jiu-jitsu, softball and water polo will also feature in the high performance under-18 category for the first time.
Traditionally, the SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship recipients will attend a ceremony to receive their awards – particularly so as the Scholarship hits a 10th year milestone. In these unusual times of the Covid-19 outbreak, celebrations will be muted and the ceremony, like many others, will not be held so as to comply with the Government’s social distancing measures. Recipients will instead receive the scholarship cash awards via direct deposits in their bank accounts. The certificates will be sent to them after the circuit breaker measures are lifted.
10 years of supporting Singapore’s young sporting talent
But the absence of an award ceremony doesn't mean this year's recipients stand out any less, or are any less deserving of recognition. Over a decade, 2,930 scholarships amounting to $8 million have been awarded to athletes from 54 sports.
“Pursuing sports excellence is life changing – it gives inspiration and hope,” said SOF chairman Ng Ser Miang. “Over the past 10 years, Mr Lim's continued generosity has allowed many young Singapore athletes to pursue and excel in their sporting dreams. It stemmed from his simple wish that no young athlete be held back, or have unrealised potential because of financial difficulties.”
When Singapore hosted the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, entrepreneur and philanthropist Mr Peter Lim donated $10 million to the SOF to start a sport scholarship. Such is its success that last year Mr Lim renewed his commitment by pumping in another $10 million to further fund the scholarship from 2021 to 2030. His commitment remains the single largest donation in Singapore from an individual towards sports development in Singapore.
The Scholarship has become a stepping stone for many athletes to greater achievements. Many recipients have gone on to represent the country at major Games: 13 at the Olympics; 77 to the Asian Games; 28 to the Commonwealth Games; and 146 to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
A total of 289 recipients representing 32 sports from 194 schools will receive $825,000 this year, with 53 athletes qualifying for the high performance under-18 category. This is the first time athletes in road cycling, ice hockey, jiu-jitsu, softball and water polo will feature in the high performance category.
To qualify for the Scholarship, recipients have to meet a set of criteria, including posting consistent results in relevant sports competitions. A majority of the recipients come from financially-challenged backgrounds and have demonstrated a potential to excel in their respective sports. Recipients can use the funds to pay for their competition expenses, buy sport equipment as well as to cover school-related expenses.
Putri Nur Syaliza Binte Sazali, 16, is the youngest footballer to play for the Singapore national women’s team. In 2018, at just 14, she scored on her debut for the Lionesses. However, her football journey has not been an easy one. Her mother, who works as a bus driver, is the sole breadwinner in the family of six, as her father is unemployed because of health problems. Issues off the pitch threatened to hamper her performance on it. Said the eight-time recipient, “The scholarship has really helped me a lot over the years. It was very difficult for me when I needed the money to get good sports equipment.”
2019 SEA Games gold medallist short track speed skater Xu Jing Feng (73). Photo: Andrew J K Tan/SportSG
Said 2019 SEA Games gold medallist short track speed skater Xu Jing Feng, a four-time recipient of the Scholarship and a first-time high performance under-18 recipient, “Last year, the funds helped defray my competition fees and equipment expenses which were necessary for my SEA Games preparations. This year, I’m planning to replace my skating boots which are coming apart after 4.5 years, and hope to use the scholarship funds to cover the replacement.”
Supporting the Singapore sport system
Besides the impact to the recipients, podium achievements have also led to those in the Singapore sports fraternity lauding the Scholarship initiative. Said Mr Toh Boon Yi, Chief of Singapore Sports Institute, “The SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship has helped young deserving sports talents fulfil their sporting aspirations by defraying the cost of their sporting pursuits. It also supports high-performing athletes to pursue sporting excellence in their chosen sports.
“Sport Singapore and the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI) look forward to continue to partner with SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship to build a strong athlete pipeline and support mechanisms within an athlete-centric environment that allows each athlete to fulfil their sporting aspirations, inspiring the Singapore Spirit and uniting the Nation.
“We envisage that the SOF-Peter Lim scholarship can continue to play a game-changing role as an integral part of our national High Performance System.”