The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) now has a million-dollar fund to encourage local-born talent to play the sport at the Olympic level without worrying about paying for their tertiary education.
This became possible with a donation from an Indonesian businessman and philanthropist, Dr Tahir, who goes by a single name. The 63-year-old's contribution is the largest donation to the STTA by an individual.
The chairman and chief executive officer of the Mayapada Group was president of the Indonesian Table Tennis Association until last year.
"I believe that sport and education go together," he said, adding that many Indonesians take part in activities in Singapore, and that sport has the potential to unite a country.
The STTA-Dr Tahir and Associates Future Ready Trust Fund was launched yesterday at a ceremony attended by Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam. It will cover university tuition fees and living expenses of any local-born paddler who represents Singapore at the Olympics.
Players who are not university-bound can also tap the trust fund for courses to obtain life skills required for their post-sporting careers.
The trust fund is part of the STTA's push to encourage more local-born paddlers to represent the country on the international stage.
"With this, we hope that we address every aspect of the concerns of our local-born players," said STTA president Lee Bee Wah.
Players who could benefit from the trust fund include 2010 Youth Olympic Games participants Isabelle Li and Clarence Chew, as well as Commonwealth Games gold medallist Pang Xue Jie.
"It is definitely a burden off our minds," said Isabelle.
The 19-year-old Republic Polytechnic graduate had inspired Ms Lee to start the trust fund, as she has applied to Yale-NUS College despite deferring her studies for three years to train full-time. She is doing so to secure the cost of her tuition, which typically increases over the years.
Isabelle has a scholarship grant worth about $7,000 annually but, without the trust fund, the rest of her tertiary education fees would have to be borne by her family.
Said Ms Lee: "We want to assure local-born paddlers that we will do everything possible, so all you need to do is to pursue your dreams, and aim high.
"We would like you not just to aim to be in the national team, but also to be in the Olympics."