Relief for rower Saiyidah after three-year wait

SEA Games gold medallist Saiyidah Aisyah became the first rower to receive a spexScholarship. She is aiming for an Asian Games medal in 2018.
SEA Games gold medallist Saiyidah Aisyah became the first rower to receive a spexScholarship. She is aiming for an Asian Games medal in 2018. ST FILE PHOTO

Rower Saiyidah Aisyah's three-year wait for additional funding finally ended when she was granted the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship).

The support will help cover the costs of her training and other living expenses including rental and food in Sydney, where she is training ahead of the Asian Olympic qualifiers next month.

"It's a big relief for me," the 2013 SEA Games gold medallist told The Straits Times. "The scholarship relieves my financial burden, which has been the main challenge I've been facing for the longest time."

Besides defraying costs, the funding will also expand her options of competitions she can go for.

"It allows me to participate in more competitions," she added. "Usually I plan year-by-year because I don't know whether I will receive funding or not. But now with this scholarship, I can plan for the longer term, to know which races I could compete in."

While she is hoping to qualify for August's Olympics, she is looking for success beyond that, regardless of whether she makes it to Brazil. The 27-year-old is aware that the scholarship helps her to target for a medal at the 2018 Asian Games.

She said: "The scholarship will not help me in my qualification for Rio. But the main goal is the Asian Games."

On being the first rower to come under the elite athlete support scheme, she said: "I'm happy to be the first rower to get this support. I hope it can be an example for other athletes, not just in rowing, but other smaller and lesser known sports to work hard and be persistent."

Also a trailblazer for her sport is sprinter Shanti Pereira, the first track and field athlete to be awarded the scholarship.

Given that recipients are identified based on their potential to win a medal at the Olympic, Asian and world-level events, the 19-year-old 200m SEA Games champion felt honoured to be seen as a medal prospect at a higher level of competition.

Shanti said with a laugh: "I won just a gold at the SEA Games, and compared to other athletes who have already made it for the Olympic Games, I felt I was at a different level from them. I'm just thankful (to receive the scholarship)."

"I've seen how the support has benefited other athletes like the canoeists. And I believe I'm going to improve like them too."

The Republic Polytechnic student is excited at the prospect of going for more overseas training stints, as she aims for a medal at the Asian Games in 2018.

She said: "The last time I went to Germany for three weeks to train, I was 16. I set a few personal bests after I came back.

"It (the scholarship) will make it easier for me to make it and win a medal at the Asian Games."

Alvin Chia

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline Relief for rower Saiyidah after three-year wait. Subscribe