Singapore's SEA Games hopefuls to get help going full-time

Singapore athletes preparing for next year's SEA Games and Asean Para Games can look forward to increased funding and more comprehensive support in their hunt for glory on home soil.

The backing is being offered in the hope of enabling and encouraging more sportsmen to devote themselves to full-time training at least six months ahead of the June 5-16 SEA Games and the Asean Para Games in December.

Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong announced this move yesterday on the sidelines of the Straits Times Athlete of the Year award ceremony.

Said Mr Wong: "(Six months of full-time training) is the kind of commitment you need in order to train and excel at this level of competition."

He added: "Our athletes train very hard and work very hard to do our nation proud. I think we should do whatever we can to allow them to train and give them the best possible support."

The minister added that athletes who take time off work to prepare for the biennial Games will get support for their loss of wages, while the authorities will work with education institutions to give those still in school more flexibility in their curriculum or examinations.

Athletes serving National Service can also count on getting time off to train.

It is understood that the Singapore Sports Institute, which comes under the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), will disburse funds to give the athletes a boost.

Added Mr Wong: "It's not going to be national sports association-specific, but athlete-specific.

"Some athletes are already getting more support because they're Sports Excellence (Spex) scholars, or are supported by the Sports Excellence High Performance Sports framework. But some are not."

Details of the scheme have yet to be revealed, but Mr Bob Gambardella, SSC's sports development group chief, said: "We will fund training as necessary."

MAY CHEN

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