Practical factors will snuff out most Olympic potential

The winning of Singapore's first Olympic gold medal by Joseph Schooling is awe-inspiring, but it is also cause for reflection.

How many parents are willing to scrimp and save to invest nearly $1.5 million in their child's sports education in the United States, knowing full well that chasing the Olympic dream may end up as only a dream ("Success sweeter if athletes are backed from the start"; yesterday).

Or would they rather invest the same amount in a university education in medicine or law, knowing that their child's career is guaranteed?

The odds of parents choosing the latter path are rather high, considering that out of 10 aspiring Joseph Schoolings, nine will likely face disappointment.

In the Singapore context, parents' practical considerations will probably snuff out the potential of the majority of promising Olympic gold medallists before they even have a chance to develop their talents.

Sports are still not given enough attention and consideration in Singapore. It is one area where the Government and society may need to seriously explore further.

To see more Joseph Schoolings will require more effort and collaboration from all quarters.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'Practical factors will snuff out most Olympic potential'. Print Edition | Subscribe