17 elite athletes join spexScholarship scheme, athletics and rowing included for first time

Singapore sprinter Shanti Pereira, who is in the third batch of athletes who will receive the scholarship.
Singapore sprinter Shanti Pereira, who is in the third batch of athletes who will receive the scholarship.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An additional 17 national athletes across seven sports were awarded the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) on Friday (March 11). And for the first time since the scholarship was launched in 2013, sportsmen from athletics and rowing are among the recipients.

Sprinter Shanti Pereira, who won the 200m gold at last year's SEA Games, and rower Saiyidah Aisyah, who is currently training in Sydney ahead of the Olympic qualifiers next month, are among the third batch of athletes who received the scholarship.

Both of them will be under the scheme from this year until 2018, when the Asian Games will be held.

The Quah siblings of swimming, Ting Wen, Zheng Wen and Jing Wen were also added to the list for the first time. They were chosen from 39 applicants who were shortlisted from 103 nominated entries received by the Singapore Sports Institute this year.

They received their scholarships from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who also chairs the High Performance Sports (HPS) Steering Committee.

Ms Fu said at a ceremony at the Singapore Sports Hub's Black Box auditorium: "The spexScholarship is part of a concerted effort to support our athletes who are keen to reach the pinnacle of sports excellence, and have shown the physical and emotional strength to do so.

"Besides the spexScholarship, we also provide a holistic system of support to all our Team Singapore athletes through our HPS system."

Shanti, 19, is thankful for the support she will receive to fuel her dream of making it to the Olympic Games in 2020. She said: "It will definitely help me in my journey towards the 2018 Asian Games as well as Tokyo 2020 in terms of training both here and overseas as well as anything else I would need leading up to it.

"Being the first (recipient) from athletics is a sign that the sport is indeed coming up after a long time and knowing that, more and more people would want to excel in it and make it as far as they can."

The new additions take the total number of athletes who stand to benefit from the scheme to 72. Out of the previous cohort of 70 athletes, 11 of them have completed the programme and four have withdrawn for various reasons. The four withdrawals are Zhan Jian and Isabelle Li (table tennis), and Ashly Lau and Janessa Lai (gymnastics).

An inaugural batch of 61 athletes received the spexScholarship when it was launched in 2013.

Backed by a war chest of $40 million over five years, it offers enhanced support to athletes who have been identified with the potential to win medals at Asian, Olympic and world-level events. Less than half of the amount has been disbursed so far.

Athletes identified for the top tier (of four levels) of support will receive a monthly stipend of up to $8,000 and other forms of assistance in areas including sport science, coaching, competition, training and equipment.

While officials declined to reveal the number of athletes who belong to this elite group, it is believed that Singapore's top paddler Feng Tianwei, bowling world champion Shayna Ng, and swimmer Joseph Schooling are in this bracket.