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Minister's Speech at 2024 spexScholarship and spexPotential Presentation Ceremony

48 inaugural spexPotential athletes part of new programme to strengthen youth-to-senior athlete transition and nurture promising athletes early for sustained sporting success.

Distinguished Guests,

Athletes and Family Members, 

Coaches, Sport Leaders and Supporters, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Good evening, I am so delighted to be with you today at the 2024 spexScholarship and spexPotential Presentation Ceremony.
  2. Let me first extend my heartiest congratulations to all our spexScholars, our new scholars and existing scholars returning to the programme, as well as our new spexPotential scholars!
    1. All of you have demonstrated clear commitment, unwavering dedication for sporting excellence and you have in your own ways flown the Singapore flag high and so proudly. We are all very proud of you. 
  3. Since its commencement, the spexScholarship has been a very important cornerstone of High-Performance Sports. We have supported over 200 athletes and para-athletes across 34 different sports and produced 27 World, Olympic and Paralympic Champions.
    1. In fact, just last week, our World Sailing World Champion Max Maeder struck gold at the Formula Kite European Championships in Spain! 
    2. At the recent Hangzhou Asian Games, all 3 gold medals were won by our spexScholars, while spexScholar Nur Syahidah brought us our first para-archery medal at the Asian Para Games. 
    3. Loh Kean Yew, our spexScholar, recently won the Spain Masters title, and the list goes on.
    4. Well done our spexScholars!
  4. Just as our athletes have worked hard, we, the Government are also working hard alongside them as well. The Government invests significantly in our High-Performance Sports system, to first identify, then nurture and develop, and allow our athletes to reach their aspirations as best as they can.
  5. Our talented athletes receive comprehensive but highly individualised and personalised support to help them maximise their potential. 
  6. The spexScholarship, in the whole ecosystem and framework, is a very important part of this support, and it has been enhanced and extended over time.
    1. The programme now supports our nation’s top athletes with monthly stipends, training allowances, as well as funding for competitions both here and abroad, as our athletes train and compete full-time. 
      1. What we want is to immerse our athletes in the athlete environment for trainings and competitions free from distractions – distractions of having to worry about stipends, allowances and funding for overseas competitions and trainings. 
    2. Since its commencement in 2013, there has been a sevenfold (700%) increase in the funding support for spexScholars.
    3. We started with just 61 spexScholars in 2013 and last year, we have expanded to welcome our largest ever cohort at 105 scholars.
    4. We also expanded our spexScholarship to support more sports. In 2022, we welcomed to our programme our first spexScholar in indoor skydiving – not yet quite a Major Game sport, but there is interest in the sport from Singapore and we have Singaporeans doing well at the world level in indoor skydiving. So, we welcomed Kyra Poh, our first indoor skydiving spexScholar. 
    5. We also introduced more flexibility in 2023 for spexScholars who are entering National Service, so that they do not by reason of entering National Service alone not continue to get the support of the scholarship. 
  7. Up till today, the spexScholarship has reaped impressive dividends.
    1. Over the years, the proportion of gold medals won by spexScholars has steadily increased. Let me illustrate this. In 2017 at the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, spexScholars accounted slightly under half (48%) of all gold medals won by Team Singapore Games. Last year, at the Cambodia 2023 Southeast Asian Games, spexScholars accounted for three quarters (75%) of the gold medals won.
    2. This shows that our programme at identifying, nurturing and then supporting our scholars on their journeys is the correct one.
    3. Our spexScholar para-athletes are not to be outdone. They won 100% of all gold medals won by Team Singapore at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games and they repeated this remarkable feat to show that it was no fluke last year at the Hangzhou Asian Para Games.
  8. The spexScholarship provides support holistically. It is not just financial support; it also supports athletes in non-financial ways, playing an integral role in supporting our spexScholars, to enable them to give their best, train at the highest level and compete with the best.

    1. To illustrate, after coming onboard the programme in 2018, our para-swimmer Toh Wei Soong steadily improved with the introduction of sport science and sport medicine to help him in his trainings and competitions. spexScholarship also gave him many more training opportunities abroad.
      1. And it showed – because Wei Soong did excellently. He excelled at last year’s Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, breaking 2 Games Records in the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly events.
    2. Not to forget Shanti Pereira, our national sprinter.
      1. Shanti returned to the spexProgramme in 2022, and now trains overseas as a full-time athlete with a dedicated coach as well as funding for overseas training and competitions.
      2. This enhanced support has given Shanti a tremendous boost - within months of returning to the programme, she broke the 100m national record twice and set a new 200m national record.
      3. In fact, since then, she has also broken and set a new 400m national record at the Florida Relays. I understand that she took part at the event in Florida as part of her training. This shows how much exponential difference a fully dedicated training can make to an athlete’s development.
    3. I am heartened that the spexScholarship has enabled our athletes to perform at their best. It does not matter if you have not yet won your medals. Like Reuben Lee said earlier in the video, he aims to win his medals. You may not have won yet, but if each time you hit the competition, you perform at your best, challenge yourself and move your personal best closer and closer to the medal timing. That’s all we ask for you – to do your very best with the support that we have given.  
  9. Today, I am proud to award the 2024 spexScholarships to 103 athletes from 26 sports and welcome 10 new scholars from 9 sports.

  10. I am also especially delighted to welcome our first spexScholars from two sports - Diyanah Aqidah from Taekwondo, and Daniel Chan from Para-shooting.  

    1. The addition of Taekwondo and Para-shooting brings the total number of sports the spexScholarship covers to 26 - a number we have seen steadily increase in the past two years, as we continue to expand the programme to deserving athletes.
      1. Para-shooting is also the first para sport to be added to the spexScholarship table in the last two years.
  11. Turning from the spexScholarship that has been very successful, let me speak a bit about spexPotential.  

    1. The bar for spexScholarship can be high – often benchmarked at Asian Games medal potential.
      1. This might mean that an athlete might sometimes be less supported earlier on in their journey.
  12. As we have announced in Parliament, our new spexPotential programme will serve to bridge these gaps and allow for more promising young athletes to be supported at an earlier stage of their sporting career.

    1. To support them earlier means to give them a better chance, a better prospect of being able to emerge, with the aspirations and shoot for the stars. 
  13. We will do our best to help all our aspiring and talented athletes to do even better. We want to introduce the spexPotential programme to effectively scaffold the support - so that support is available not just when athletes have reached the Asian Games medal potential benchmark, but to broaden the base and allow more aspiring, good athletes with potential and who have shown dedication to come on our programme earlier.
  14. Our first spexPotential cohort therefore is a very young one with an average age of 21.
    1. It is also one which we have carefully identified with strong developmental potential and potential for gold medal success at Southeast Asian Games and beyond.
    2. The spexPotential athletes are among our best and brightest sporting talents. They were selected by an independent committee based on the commitment and potential that they have shown.
  15. It brings me great joy today to announce our inaugural spexPotential cohort of 48 athletes across 22 sports!
  16. Human Interest Story – Ser Lin Qian, Table Tennis
  17. Allow me to share one story about our spexPotential scholar, table tennis paddler Ser Lin Qian, 18.
    1. Lin Qian is our 2022 Singapore Sports Awards Sportsgirl of the Year and has performed splendidly in the youth categories.
      1. At the recent World Table Tennis (WTT) Youth Star Contender 2024 in March, she eliminated three higher ranked Chinese players to finish second in the Under-19 girls’ singles event. That is a highly commendable feat given the very competitive field that she was up against.
      2. But Lin Qian is not stopping there, she is going to use the platform of spexPotential to shoot for the stars. She has set goals for herself - to increase her world ranking and qualify for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. We are firmly behind her in her goals and will support her on her aspirations and journey. Her next step is to excel at the next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.
      3. spexPotential will provide the necessary support for her coaching, training, and overseas competitions, as well as putting her in an environment where she can focus on making sure that she reaches her true potential.
  18. Concluding Remarks

  19. As I conclude, I want to wish all our spexScholars and spexPotential athletes all the best in your training, in your daily training environment and your competitions, as you push yourself to be better each time.
  20. We are going to have a very busy sporting calendar this year; we have the Olympics and Paralympics coming up, and various World Championship events around the world. Every year is a new year of excitement, a new year of potential, and a new year of sometimes a little bit of trepidation as you go in to these competitions.
  21. But it is never not exciting. It is always exciting and always fulfilling to see Team Singapore athletes compete. Every time I travel to support Team Singapore athletes for Major Games, I look at how our athletes compete with the flag emblem on their jersey at their chest, fighting for every point, fighting to be faster, stronger, fitter, higher. It gives me great pride and tremendous joy this evening to support you further on this journey.
  22. So once again, congratulations to all our scholars. Thank you very much for serving Singapore and all the very best.
  23. Thank you.  
Last updated on 09 April 2024