Olympics: Singapore's funding for elite athletes and the pathway to the top

Feng Tianwei of Singapore hits a return against Taiwan's Cheng I-Ching during their women's singles quarter-final table tennis match at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open table tennis tournament on June 18.
Feng Tianwei of Singapore hits a return against Taiwan's Cheng I-Ching during their women's singles quarter-final table tennis match at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open table tennis tournament on June 18.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE'S FUNDING FOR ELITE ATHLETES (2013-17): $40 MILLION

Weightlifter Tan Howe Liang earned Singapore's first Olympic medal in Rome 1960 - a silver in the lightweight category - before the country even became independent.

Singapore, desperate to add to the lone medal to its name, strived and strained but it was almost five decades before triumph came round again.

Several schemes were put in place to set the country's best athletes in the right direction, beginning with Project 0812, a joint effort by the Singapore National Olympic Council, then-Singapore Sports Council and then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sport. It started with $7 million for 22 athletes, to give them the preparation and aid needed for glory at the 2008 and 2012 Games.

The scheme found success in 2008, with the women's table tennis team winning silver for Singapore's first Olympic medal in 48 years.

 
  • Team Singapore

    All of Singapore's athletes - except wild-card sprinter Timothee Yap, windsurfer Audrey Yong, who received an unused quota place and swimmer Quah Ting Wen, who is going on a universality place - have qualified on merit. The Republic is fielding a squad as big as the post-independence high of Beijing 2008.

    Not surprisingly, the women's table tennis team will shoulder the burden of securing at least a podium finish. Feng Tianwei and Co. are aiming to retain at least one of the two bronzes won in London. Feng, seeded No. 2 in the singles, will be a big medal hope.

    But triumph could come from an unexpected arena too. Swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won a historic bronze at the World Championships last year, faces stiff competition in the pool but could surprise in his pet 100m butterfly.

    Shooter Jasmine Ser and sailor Colin Cheng should also not be discounted.

    THE CONTINGENT

    25 athletes from seven sports (athletics, badminton, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming and table tennis).

The Olympic Pathway Programme succeeded Project 0812 in 2009. It set aside $6.5 million for 11 athletes from four sports. The return was two bronzes, also from table tennis, at London 2012.

The evolution of high performance sports support schemes went on to the Sports Excellence Scholarship launched in 2013. Under this, a $40 million war chest over five years was made available to athletes, who were funded according to different tiers.

Singapore athletes also stand to be one of the best rewarded in the world under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme. An Olympic gold is worth $1 million, a silver $500,000 and a bronze yields $250,000.

In team events, a gold is rewarded with $1.5 million, silver $750,000 and bronze $375,000.

A team sport gold is worth $2 million, silver $1 million and bronze $500,000.

All athletes are required to plough back 20 per cent of the earnings to their national sport associations for future training and development.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Pathway to the top'. Print Edition | Subscribe