Limited funding: How Singapore athletes cope

$33k needed if Rio quest succeeds

Saiyidah Aisyah, cheered by home fans at the Singapore SEA Games, says she would never forgive herself if she were to quit chasing her dream, even though she is burdened by a lack of financial support.
Saiyidah Aisyah, cheered by home fans at the Singapore SEA Games, says she would never forgive herself if she were to quit chasing her dream, even though she is burdened by a lack of financial support.BH FILE PHOTO

SAIYIDAH AISYAH, 27, ROWING Receives no funding even as a carded athlete

Achievements:

• Gold in 2,000m lightweight single sculls at 2013 SEA Games

• Bronze in 500m and 1,000m lightweight single sculls at 2015 Games

Dream: To become the first Singaporean rower to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics

"My boss from Ngee Ann Polytechnic once told me: If money is the problem, there is no problem. In other words, I shouldn't let (the lack of) money stop me from chasing my dreams.

"Each month, I spend around A$2,000 (S$2,011) on my living expenses in Sydney (rental, food, petrol) but this doesn't include expenses like competition fees, rowing club fees and physiotherapy.

"It will cost me about S$20,000 to get me from now until next April's Asian Olympic qualification regatta and another S$13,000 once I succeed, to prepare for the Olympics in August.

"I am still being carded and I receive no monetary remuneration from either the Singapore Rowing Association and Sport Singapore.

"For my expenses, 90 per cent comes from my savings and the rest from friends.

"Sometimes, I do think of quitting. I am human too and there are days when I feel down and feel like just packing up and going back home... and not having to think about some crazy dream of mine.

"And then I realise that if I were to do that, I wouldn't ever be able to forgive myself. I'm already in it, might as well go all the way.

"My message to other athletes with minimal funding is that the journey will be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. And the hard part is going to make it all worth it."

Jonathan Wong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline '$33k needed if Rio quest succeeds'. Print Edition | Subscribe