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Highlighting the High Performance Sports system

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at Celebrate What’s Right 2018
20 March 2018

Mr Teo Ser Luck

Advisor, spexBusiness Advisory Board

Mr Richard Seow

Chairman, Sport Singapore

Partners and Athletes

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good evening to all of you. I am delighted to be here to award the spexScholarship to 17 athletes, as well as to recognise our spexBusiness and spexEducation partners at the same event for the first time. By bringing the athletes, corporate and education partners together, we are presenting our elite athletes to the benefactors who are supporting them in the pursuit of their sporting goals. Together with the Government, the Singapore National Olympic Council, the Singapore National Paralympic Council and the National Sports Associations (NSAs), we are all part of Singapore’s sports ecosystem, playing important roles to raise sports excellence in Singapore to greater heights.

 

Highlighting the High Performance Sports system

2. Our High Performance Sports (HPS) system enables our Team Singapore athletes to perform at their very best. Over the last 5 years, the Government has funded the HPS system in the region of about $60m per year.  I would like to take this opportunity to share with you our basis for funding and the philosophy behind it.

3. To achieve the best outcomes as One Team Singapore, the Government will focus on sports that feature regularly in the major Games and where we have built up strong ecosystems over the years. For many of these sports, the road to sporting excellence starts young. There are multiple avenues to identify and develop sporting talent, from CCAs and the Junior Sports Academies in schools, to programmes run by ActiveSG, NSAs as well as private clubs and academies. We set up the Singapore Sports School in 2004, to provide our youth athletes the option of an integrated environment to pursue both sports and academic development, with dedicated Academy Programmes in nine sports. In addition, we established the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) in 2016 to support the development of our youth athletes through coaching, sports medicine and science support, as well as athlete life management.

4. Together with the Sports School and NYSI, SportSG’s Singapore Sport Institute (SSI) partners our National Sports Associations (NSAs) and National Disability Sports Associations (NDSAs) to develop our athletes through raising the quality of coaching, the rigour of daily training environments and exposure to competition opportunities. Where we can, we look to provide these training facilities locally, so that more athletes can benefit from them; if not, we would support our athletes overseas for the exposure. Promising athletes are accorded carding status, which provides support in terms of grants, including the spexScholarship, as well as other aspects like sports science and medicine expertise. SSI has been developing sport science expertise in the key sports.

5. In this long journey of athlete development, NSAs play a crucial role. I would like to urge NSAs to develop a comprehensive and sustained long-term plan, with clarity of purpose, and put in place a strong professional team to implement the plan. We have seen from experience that NSAs who do so are more likely to develop a robust pipeline of elite athletes and a succession of champions. These NSAs generally generate greater impact from the funding provided and will, in turn, garner more sustained funding. SSI engages the NSAs in developing Multi-Year Sports Plans that lay out the medium- to long- term blueprint for the development of their sports. The Government provides targeted and sustained support to the NSAs to execute their plans, to develop their athletes and to build the high performance sports ecosystem in accordance with the agreed Plans.

6. What does this HPS support look like to an athlete? We have heard from Ryan Lo earlier. Ryan joined sailing as a CCA in primary school, at the age of 7. He was selected for national youth squads over the years. His first major overseas competition was the 2010 Asian Games, where he won a Bronze medal at the age of 13. As a carded athlete, Ryan has received significant support from both the SSF and SSI, in training, coaching, nutrition and sports psychology. Campaign support has allowed him to focus on his training for the recent SEA Games in KL, where he won two Gold medals in the Laser Individual and Team events. As a returning spexScholar, Ryan is now working hard towards qualifying for Tokyo 2020, and aiming for a podium finish at the 2024 Olympics.

7. Shuttler Yeo Jia Min is another aspiring athlete. Jia Min was first spotted by the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), who selected her for the national intermediate squad at the tender age of 11. In Secondary One, she joined the Sports School under its Badminton Academy, where she trained under a customised sport and academic programme. Jia Min has also received support from SSI, first as a carded athlete, and then as a spexScholar since January 2015. Since completing her studies at the School in 2015, Jia Min has been concentrating on her badminton career full-time. She trains six days a week at the OCBC Arena alongside her team, and she became Singapore’s first world number one junior female badminton player in June 2017 at the age of 18. She has since made the transition to the senior level.

8. Many athletes, like Ryan and Jia Min, have achieved success through our HPS system. Like many countries of our size, we have to be focused and judicious in applying our limited resources. Within this comprehensive framework, we accommodate different sports, different individuals, and different pathways to success, while making the best of our resources.  

9. For promising athletes in non-traditional sports, we will do our best to support them. First, by putting them under the carding system, which objectively maps and tracks the performance and potential of the athlete against peers of the same age, as well as establishes the level and type of funding – whether in the form of spexScholarships or campaign funding. We recently announced that we will be providing campaign support over a rolling two-year period, to help our athletes prepare for the major Games. $2 million will be set aside for the upcoming Asian Games and Asian Para Games this year, on top of the existing funding for NSAs and carded athletes.

10. For our HPS system to grow, we should diversify and tap resources beyond Government funding. The One Team Singapore Fund was set up to encourage corporates and individuals to donate in support of our Team Singapore athletes and the high performance development of their chosen sport. Through the matching grant feature, Government partners our NSAs to enhance their HPS capabilities. For the fund to gain traction, it will be important to engage stakeholders and the wider community.  

Congratulating new recipients of the spexScholarship – the pinnacle of the High Performance Sports support system

11. As mentioned, the spexScholarship is an important channel for supporting athletes with the potential to medal at the World, Olympic and Asian levels. I am pleased to welcome 17 new spexScholars to the programme, bringing the total number of spexScholars to 78 across 24 sports, including 7 para sports. Two sports, namely squash and wushu, are represented by spexScholars for the first time.

12. All of you have earned this scholarship through your dedication to sport.  You have made many sacrifices for the sport you love. Many of you have taken work or study breaks to pursue your sporting aspirations. We are glad to see that determination in you. In the years to come, we hope that you will continue to have the ambition and belief to reach for the pinnacle, both in and out of the sporting arena.

13. Being a spexScholar comes with a set of responsibilities, beyond your sporting commitments. You are now role models for other athletes and fellow Singaporeans. I urge you to set positive examples for the sporting fraternity and our wider community in all that you do. For a start, you may wish to engage the corporate partners who are here supporting you.

 

Support from spexEducation and spexBusiness partners is critical

14. Our partners of the spexBusiness and spexEducation schemes have collectively supported more than 200 Team Singapore athletes and 400 student-athletes. We have heard from Deloitte and Fullerton Health, who have been our firm supporters, particularly in guiding our athletes in their careers after sport. OCBC, Nestlé and F&N have recently pledged cash and in-kind support worth more than $400,000 for our Team Singapore athletes, in addition to providing employment and internship opportunities.

15. This evening, we also welcome aboard 19 new partners, from both the private and public sectors. On behalf of all the athletes, all the sports, and Singapore, we thank all our spexBusiness and spexEducation partners, for believing in the value of sport, in the ability and talent of our athletes, and our collective ability to put the Singapore flag on the podium of major Games.

Conclusion

16. Let us all work together as One Team Singapore, leveraging our expertise in different areas, as we strive for sustained sporting success. Thank you very much.

Last Updated: 26 March 2018

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