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Why It Matters

Nurturing top athletes

The nation's top athletes have received a shot in the arm in recent weeks, with the Government set to inject $50 million over five years to support high- performance sport and a One Team Singapore matching grant to be set up.

The latter initiative, announced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in Parliament last week, will see the Government match dollar for dollar - up to $50 million - any donation supporting elite athletes.

Should the grant be maximised, it could see the high-performance sector reap up to $150 million over five years.

Both moves represent a validation of - as well as the Government's commitment to - sports excellence. It is a significant gesture, considering the permanent 2 per cent downward adjustment to ministries' budget caps from next month.

Given the strong push for sport for all in recent years, this funding boost sends the message that high-performance sport is not an afterthought. It shows that while the Government values mass participation, it also sees purpose in nurturing world beaters.

Joseph Schooling's historic Olympic gold - among other feats by national athletes over the years - proved Singapore can produce world-class talent.

At the same time, it shone a spotlight on the things that many Team Singapore athletes need, but often do not have.

Sportsmen crave regular competition against their counterparts who are faster, stronger and better. They covet coaches and experts whose invaluable insight can make the difference between "good" and "great".

Having at least an extra $10 million a year will not yield instant returns. But what it can do is help put more athletes on a stronger footing in their pursuit of glory.

For only with sustained support can sustained success come - in the hopes that a historic Olympic first will be followed by a second, a third, and countless more moments of such euphoric pride.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Nurturing top athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe