SINGAPORE : Singapore’s top—performing sportsmen look set to get a big boost. The government will invest in a formalised national high—performance system that could allow them to train and compete full—time.
More resources will be channelled into helping Singapore’s top athletes achieve sporting excellence.
This follows Monday’s Budget announcement that the government will invest 30 per cent more in sports programmes.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had said sports and the arts play a growing role in enriching life in Singapore and the Budget will make significant investments to nurture both.
Some of this money will go towards formalising a comprehensive high—performance system to give top athletes a level—up in their training.
Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said: "Through the High Performance Sports System, we will give them more comprehensive support for their training, whether in terms of competition, coaching, sports medicine, sports science — there will be a comprehensive support system to help our athletes achieve their full potential to achieve excellence."
This new initiative will be overseen by an 11—member steering committee.
The committee, chaired by Mr Wong and which includes representatives from the Singapore National Olympic Council, the Paralympic Council and the respective National Sports Associations (NSAs), will provide strategic guidance, approve the award of the Sports Excellence Scholarship and approve the annual High Performance Sports System plans for sports in which there are supported athletes.
Mr Wong said: "You should see this in the bigger picture in terms of how we have progressively over the years invested in high—performance sports. This is not something that’s new today.
"But we have done it over the years progressively through the Sports School and then we had the Olympic Pathway Programme, we had the Singapore Sports Institute and now we have this High Performance Sports System and a Sport Excellence Scholarship.
"They will be carded athletes — that means they will be representing Singapore but we will have to work through different levels, the different tiers, because athletes will represent Singapore at different levels — some will be for regional games, some may be for international games and at the highest level, it will be at the Olympics.
"So we have to work through the system and see how we can identify, work with the NSAs and identify the athletes and the sports that will benefit from this High Performance Sports System."
A key feature of the system is the Sports Excellence Scholarship, which will enhance support for selected athletes.
The scholarship will include stipends which could allow these athletes to train and compete full—time.
The Steering Committee will evaluate the first batch of athletes for this scholarship in the next two months.
The new support system will build on existing programmes like the Olympic Pathway Programme and the Singapore Sports Council’s Sports Excellence Programme.
Annabel Pennefather, Singapore’s Chef de Mission to the Southeast Asian Games 2013, said: "The difference I see in this programme is that the Olympic Pathway Programme just focused on a small group of athletes who had kind of reached the pinnacle of their excellence pathway and they were knocking on the door of the Olympics, whereas the Sports Council’s current or earlier programmes provided for perhaps only a limited number of scholarships and not as much support for individual athletes.
"This one seems to be much wider in the net that it is casting, and will include various stages of an athlete’s development, which could include the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth and Olympics for the few who get there...
"So I think it is good if this is going to be more inclusive, and a wider range of sports and athletes is going to be supported under this programme."
Ms Pennefather added that she hopes team sports will not be left out.
She said: "I hope that aside from individual athletes, there will also be some focus on team sports. Certainly the perspectives are different because in a team sport, you need more than one athlete to be receiving that kind of support and have a good core.
"But I think that is worth considering too because if the scheme is also meant to throw up more sporting heroes and role models, then team sports can do that as well, and perhaps more effectively.
"So I hope the scheme will be wide enough to include as many athletes as possible, both individual as well as team sports."
More details will be shared during the Budget Debate.
Mr Wong noted that the increased expenditure in sports will not just go towards cultivating sporting excellence, but to do more — both in terms of hardware and software — to get Singaporeans involved in sports.
He said: "There will certainly be more facilities. The facilities we are looking at putting in place will serve both the functions of helping our athletes in terms of their high performance sports training, and it will also be for mass participation — for Singaporeans to enjoy and participate in sports."
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