In just four years since he first became acquainted with sailing, Muhammad Raihan Mohd Airudin has gone from merely learning the ropes to being ranked No. 13 nationally, competitive against many who are older and more experienced than him.
All this, with hard work as his foundation - he travels to the National Sailing Centre daily after school to train - while learning to cope within his family's means.
The Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) Primary 6 pupil has never competed in a regatta overseas, nor has he trained in waters other than Singapore's. The same goes for his nine-year-old brother Razin, currently in the National B Optimist training squad.
In a family of six - the brothers have two sisters - and with father Mohd Airudin as the sole breadwinner, prudence has been the guiding compass when it comes to training.
"We hold back because going overseas is going to require a lot of money," said Airudin, 45, yesterday on the sidelines of the Singapore Olympic Foundation (SOF)-Peter Lim scholarship presentation ceremony.
"We're very prudent about spending on equipment. We don't buy new things, so everything they have is second-hand."
Even more so, because Airudin was retrenched seven months ago and only recently found a new job.
SHOT IN THE ARM
We want to continue to help talented young athletes fulfil their sporting potential, regardless of the backgrounds they come from, for as long we can.
NG SER MIANG , Singapore Olympic Foundation chairman, says the SOF-Peter Lim scholarship levels the playing field for budding athletes .
Said 12-year-old Raihan, whose mother is a homemaker: "I've always wanted to travel overseas to train and compete."
That included a recent trip to Langkawi, Malaysia where his team-mates trained in preparation for the upcoming SEA Games.
Said Airudin: "I do feel for Raihan, especially now that he's in the A squad, but I always tell him maybe it's not the right time yet. I teach them not to see the fortune of others and compare. We have to make the best of what we have."
The brothers will now get a leg up, as they are among the latest to receive SOF-Peter Lim scholarships. They each got $1,000 as recipients in the primary school category - money that will likely go to some much-needed new sails.
A total of 335 received scholarships yesterday at ITE College Central. A majority of the recipients come from financially challenged backgrounds.
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung was guest of honour at the event and presented scholarships to recipients in the tertiary category.
Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra was a special guest to present scholarships and share his journey towards becoming an Olympic and world champion.
While more than 2,000 scholarships have been handed out since the scheme's inception in 2010, this is the first time sport climbers and ice skaters featured among those who scored Under-18 High Performance scholarships (worth $5,000).
Tertiary level scholars receive $3,000 while secondary level scholars receive $2,000. In all, the scholarships given out in seven years have amounted to almost $6 million. Previous recipients include Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, as well as Youth Olympic silver medallist Martina Lindsay Veloso.
Said sport climber Mark Chan, 17: "My sport is not mainstream nor one of the top sports in Singapore so it's not very well funded and very often, there is insufficient funding to send us out for competitions or training.
"I'm hoping to spend a few weeks training in Japan after I complete my O-level exams, and this will go a long way towards that," added the Springfield Secondary student.
In his address, SOF chairman Ng Ser Miang, who is also an International Olympic Committee member, paid tribute to Singapore billionaire Peter Lim - he was also present - for his continued backing of the initiative.
Ng also said: "We want to continue to help talented young athletes fulfil their sporting potential, regardless of the backgrounds they come from, for as long as we can."