Young athletes get boost from scholarship

One is a budding athlete, while the other is a four-time Olympian. While they are at different stages of their sporting careers, what binds national sprinter Kugapriya Chandran and volleyball's double Olympic silver medallist Logan Tom is their humble backgrounds.

Both athletes, who grew up in single-parent families, were present at the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim (SOF-PL) Scholarship awards ceremony yesterday afternoon where the American, together with footballers from Valencia, presented the scholarships.

"I came from a single-parent household, (and) my mother worked three jobs, so it was through the grace of people like Mr Lim that I was able to play," said Tom, who was in Singapore in support of the scholarship.

For Kugapriya, 18, who started sprinting at the age of 10 in Rivervale Primary School, athletics was an outlet for her to take her mind off her troubles at home. The ITE College West student was one of 45 recipients of the Under-18 High Performance scholarship, who each received $5,000 in cash.

Her proud mother, retail assistant Punitha, said: "She was the first girl to win a trophy for her school after 12 years."

A total of 308 student-athletes received the scholarship, with 38 primary, 99 secondary and 126 tertiary students receiving $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 each respectively.

The SOF-PL Scholarship was launched in 2010 when Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim donated $10 million to the Singapore Olympic Foundation. A total of 1,758 scholarships have been given out.

Also present at the awards ceremony were five players from Valencia, the Spanish Primera Liga club owned by Lim. On Tuesday, the footballers met children from Beyond Social Services at Beo Crescent in the Bukit Ho Swee estate, where Lim grew up.

For many of the student-athletes, the scholarship will aid them in funding their overseas travels.

Said Republic Polytechnic tennis player Muhammad Shaheed: "I travel about 20 times a year to play in tournaments and gain experience. The $5,000 will pay for about a quarter of the trips this year, which can cost up to $1,000 each."

Ng Keng Gene

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Young athletes get boost from scholarship'. Print Edition | Subscribe