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Importance of a strong sports ecosystem to support and enable our athletes

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at Singapore Sport Institute's (SSI) Celebrate What’s Right 2019 at Swissotel The Stamford

Ms Tan Yen Yen

Chairman, spexBusiness Advisory Board,

Distinguished guests,

Athletes, coaches, officials,

Friends and families

  1. Good evening. It is my pleasure to be here this evening to award the spexScholarship to 19 athletes who join the ranks of our 54 Team Singapore spexScholars; as well as to recognise the valuable contributions of our 74 spexBusiness and spexEducation partners.

    Singapore’s High Performance Sports System

  2. Singapore’s High Performance Sports (HPS) system is all about supporting and enabling our Team Singapore athletes to perform at their best. This is a collective effort by the stakeholders of the ecosystem – including the Singapore National Olympic Council, Singapore National Paralympic Council, the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI), the National Sports Associations (NSAs), the Singapore Sports School, the National Youth Sports Institute, officials, medical professionals, sports scientists, coaches, parents, athletes; as well as support from our spexBusiness, spexEducation partners and many sponsors. I am glad to see many of you, our HPS stakeholders, gathered tonight to show our strongest support for our athletes – from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank everybody for your strong support.
  3. The Government provides the HPS system with funding of about $70 million per year, in support of our Team Singapore athletes and Singapore National Sports Associations (NSAs). It takes years to develop a high-performing athlete. At the core of our funding framework is the Multi-Year Sports Plans for developing athletes, agreed between SSI and the respective NSAs. The ability to execute this plan over many years, with the support of successive NSA leadership, is a critical success factor of the system. The sustained commitment of the NSA leadership toward this plan is therefore a major funding consideration and cannot be over-emphasized. Layering onto this plan are the other interventions, which include coaching, sports science and sports medicine support, daily training environment and competition opportunities. When major games are in sight, campaign funding is rolled out up to two years in advance to support athletes who are committed to full-time training to prepare for the competition.
  4. Government funding is augmented by the One Team Singapore Fund (OTSF). The OTSF was launched in October 2017 as a dollar-for-dollar matching grant, to encourage support for our Team Singapore athletes, and to strengthen the sustainability of our HPS ecosystem. Since its launch, the OTSF has raised nearly $4 million. I hope to see the community stepping forward to support our national athletes through this fund.

    spexScholarship as the pinnacle programme of our HPS System

  5. A key part of Singapore’s High Performance Sports system is the spexScholarship. It is offered only to athletes with the potential for a podium finish at the Asian, World and Olympic levels and who are willing to commit to a full-time training load.
  6. Compared to other carded athletes, spexScholars are given additional financial support to cover their living and training expenses, as well as programme funding for coaching, training, competition and equipment. These are customised to the athlete’s high performance plans that are mutually agreed upon between SSI, the athlete, coach and the NSA.
  7. Fencer Amita Berthier, who recently became the new world number one junior foil fencer, has benefitted from the extra support provided by the scholarship. The support covered part of her competition expenses, and provided her with sports medicine and sports science support. At the recent Asian Junior Fencing Championships in Jordan, Amita and other Team Singapore fencers were supported by a psychologist and sports trainer.

    Importance of a strong sports ecosystem

  8. As I have explained earlier, the spexScholarship is a customised programme to develop and support our most determined athletes in giving their best at the highest levels of competition. It is however not a reward for past performance.
  9. Our spexScholars are expected to be fully committed to their training plans and perform to the best of their abilities to meet set targets, and serve as a role model to younger athletes. To the 19 athletes receiving the spexScholarship tonight, my heartiest congratulations to all of you! You have not only demonstrated the potential to go far, but more importantly, you have shown the drive, the determination, the hunger to reach your targets.
  10. With tonight’s recipients, we now have 73 spexScholars across 22 sports, including 7 para sports.1 This will be the start of an intense journey for sporting excellence, and we are committed to support you every step of the way. One of our new spexScholars is Contessa Loh who is also the first able-bodied archer joining the programme. At the 2018 Asian Games, Contessa closely missed the bronze medal earning a commendable fourth place, while achieving two personal career bests. As a spexScholar, Contessa will be setting her sights on the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. I wish Contessa and our 18 other newly minted spexScholars all the very best.

    Recognising our spexBusiness and spexEducation partners

  11. Besides supporting our athletes on their sporting journey, we recognise the need to prepare them for life after their sporting careers. They will also benefit from an education and employment that supports their sporting pursuit.
  12. The spexBusiness and spexEducation networks were set up to achieve this purpose. Launched in 2013, the community has grown over the years with 74 partners from both the private and public sectors, supporting 250 Team Singapore athletes and 400 student-athletes respectively.
  13. One example is swimmer Sophie Soon. Through the spexBusiness Network, Sophie secured an employment with Toyota Asia Pacific in January this year. Toyota has given Sophie the flexibility to arrange her work around her training schedule. She is also given paid leave when she goes for competitions. It has enabled Sophie to gain work experience while concurrently training for the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships and the 2020 ASEAN Para Games.
  14. Similarly, our spexEducation partners support our athletes by arranging make-up lessons and rescheduling exams when they need to go overseas for competitions. Last year, the Singapore Institute of Technology facilitated canoeist Sarah Chen’s participation at the 2018 Asian Games by adjusting the timing of her overseas internship.
  15. This evening, I am happy to welcome onboard nine new spexBusiness and spexEducation partners from the private and public sectors. On behalf of our athletes and the sporting fraternity, we thank you for sharing our conviction in the value of sport, for believing in the ability to put the Singapore flag on the podium at major games.
  16. At this juncture, I would also like to give a special mention to Deloitte who will be hiring three more Team Singapore athletes later this year, bringing the total number of athletes who have benefitted from career opportunities at Deloitte to more than 100.


  17. It is heartening to see the sporting fraternity and its partners gathered this evening to “Celebrate What’s Right” where we celebrate the achievements of our Team Singapore athletes, as well as recognise our academic and corporate partners who rallied behind our athletes as they pursue their dreams.
  18. To our Team Singapore athletes, all of us here recognise your sporting talents, and we are equally inspired by your years of hard work, determination and sacrifice. We are here to say that we care deeply about you; we want you to reach your full potential, we want to see you achieve breakthroughs, and we want to support you to be the very best. And to let you know that when you do so, you have the power to rally the entire nation and inspire all Singaporeans.
  19. We are together on this journey together, for this is what we mean when we say that we are “One Team Singapore". I will leave you with a quote from Michael Jordan –

    “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winnings shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

This includes Archery, Badminton, Bowling, Canoeing, Cuesports, Cycling, Diving, Fencing, Sailing, Silat, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Table Tennis and Wushu; as well as 7 para sports, namely, Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boccia, Bowling, Equestrian and Swimming.

Speeches Sports 2019
Last updated on 21 March 2019