SINGAPORE - After a three-year absence from the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) programme, national swimmer Quah Ting Wen is back in the swim of things as she was on Wednesday (March 24) named as one of eight new athletes in this year's recipient list.
Quah had been dropped from the programme in 2018 after falling short of expectations, and had to reach out to sponsors as an alternative funding source after her application fell through last year.
Noting that there is now "one less thing (for her) to worry about", the 28-year-old said that the scholarship will not change her training plans as she targets a third Olympic berth in Tokyo.
"We have all a plan working towards qualification and have been training really hard. A big thing for me will just have to be trusting the process," she said.
"With this added cushion and support that I need, I can go to bed knowing that all I have to do when I wake up tomorrow is to train hard and push my body."
Into its ninth year, the spexScholarship programme will support a total of 76 athletes across 20 sports - artistic swimming is the new addition - and six para sports this year. The other seven new recipients are: Debbie Soh and Miya Yong (artistic swimming) , Goh Choon Huat (cycling), Nurulasyiqah Taha (boccia), James Leow (golf), Sheik Farhan Sheik Alauddin (silat), and Teong Tzen Wei (swimming).
As athletes were unable to travel and participate in competitions owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, new spexScholars were thoroughly assessed and selected based on their existing performance and their potential to win medals.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong congratulated the spexScholarship awardees, saying: "Our spexScholars have continued to show tenacity and resilience during this period in their pursuit towards sporting excellence. I believe that their positive spirit will inspire our younger generations as we continue to support and rally behind our athletes as One Team Singapore."
Boccia athlete Nurulasyiqah, who has won two gold medals at the Asean Para Games, said: "This scholarship will definitely help in supporting my overseas competitions, should the Covid-19 situation improve. I am determined to train even harder to fly Singapore's flag high."
On top of the scholarship, Yong is also thankful for the spexEducation scheme, a customised programme to help athletes cope effectively with the dual demands of sports and their education. The Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) currently partners 15 institutes of higher learning to offer various forms of academic flexibility for the scholars.
The 21-year-old, who is gunning for the Tokyo Olympics with Soh, said that the scheme "provides me with more flexibility to juggle both academic and sporting requirements".
"I look forward to joining the (spexScholarship) programme to optimise the support in terms of a more focused daily training environment and holistic development as a high-performance athlete."
Launched in 2013, the spexScholarship offers support for athletes who are deemed to have the potential to excel on the Asian and world stage. Aside from monthly stipends of between $1,200 and $8,400, scholars also get support in the areas of education, sports science and nutrition, among others.
Unlike previous years, there will not be a physical ceremony to celebrate the inauguration of the new scholars this year owing to the coronavirus, and selected athletes will be notified by their respective national sports associations.