SINGAPORE - Vaccinations have begun for Team Singapore's athletes, with national shooters Adele Tan, Tessa Neo and Ho Xiu Yi receiving a shot in the arm - both literally and figuratively - at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases on Wednesday (Feb 24).
The trio and their coach Song Haiping were joined by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who shared on social media that they had gotten their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The shooters had planned to travel to South Korea in April to compete in the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup, before it was postponed yesterday.
Like some of their compatriots, they will be vying for places at the Tokyo Olympics in the coming months.
Mr Tong wrote: "We must support our athletes as they travel, train, and compete for Singapore on a global stage.
"We will therefore progressively arrange for our athletes and coaches to get their vaccinations ahead of their overseas travel so that they remain safe, and can focus on their competitions."
Welcoming the inoculation for athletes, Ho noted that it was progress in the coronavirus situation as that means they are now able to travel for overseas competitions again.
The 21-year-old said: "I do feel safer now and being able to travel again does bring back the excitement. I look forward to the process of competing overseas again for the first time since the Denmark Open in February last year."
At a media engagement session on Jan 19, Mr Tong had revealed that besides those who have qualified for the Olympics, the Government will accord priority to athletes who are travelling to take part in qualifying events for the Games.
He noted that front-line workers and seniors remain "front of the queue" in Singapore's national vaccination plan, but that they are "working within that framework to see what can be done for the athletes who fit the criteria".
Mr Tong said then: "We don't want them to run the risk of coming back with Covid, and that will completely derail their preparations for the Olympics."
National shuttler Loh Kean Yew and paddlers Koen Pang and Zeng Jian were inoculated earlier this month, while Tokyo-bound table tennis players Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye will get theirs when they return from competition in Qatar in April.
Three other national shooters - Martina Veloso, Teo Shun Xie and Teh Xiu Hong - had been vaccinated earlier in the month, ahead of their visit to India for the March 18-29 ISSF World Cup stop in New Delhi.
The allocation of 12 quota places (one for each individual event) for the Tokyo Olympics will be based on world rankings as of March 31, 2020, as well as points earned in India. The spots will go to the highest-ranked shooter who has not yet qualified in any event, provided his or her country has not secured an Olympic berth in that event.
World No. 10 Veloso will vie for an Olympic spot in the women's 50m rifle three positions, while world No. 22 Teh and world No. 57 Teo are fighting for a place in the women's 25m pistol.
Earlier, Neo had secured an Olympic quota spot for Singapore after winning the 10m air rifle silver at the Asian Shooting Championships in Nov 2019.
The representative will be chosen from among Singapore top women's rifle shooters based on scores from four qualifiers - the H&N Cup in Munich in Jan 2020, which Tan won, two local events and the now-postponed Changwon competition.
Singapore Shooting Association high performance manager Jeanine Heng said: "Our plans and targets are for our shooters to medal in India to gain sufficient points for Olympic qualification, and then competition exposure in South Korea.
"But plans are extremely fluid and subject to changes every day. Getting the athletes to each country is already a challenge, our main objective now is to plan things trip by trip."