A $2 million war chest for SEA Games athletes
National athletes preparing for August's biennial meet to receive extra funding
Earlier this week, national hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad was fretting over the costs of her upcoming three-week competition stint in Brisbane, Australia.
She had submitted a plan for funding under the Sports Excellence Athletes Career and Training (spexACT) scheme, but unexpectedly faced a shortfall, due to abrupt changes to the organisation of athletic meets in Australia.
"I was very worried because I didn't know how I was going to pay for the extra amounts for all these competitions," said the 25-year-old, who has been training full-time since she graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2014.
"I have all these plans to get to the SEA (South-east Asia) Games this year and I don't know how to get there (due to finances)."
The 2015 SEA Games women's 400m hurdles silver medallist breathed easier yesterday, after Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced a $2 million war chest for athletes preparing for the Kuala Lumpur Games in August.
"As in past major Games, the Government will also be supporting our athletes' journey towards the Games," said Fu, in her speech at a spexBusiness and spexEducation event at the Parkroyal on Beach Road.
"SportSG (Sport Singapore) will set aside $2 million to support our Team Singapore athletes and para-athletes in their campaign."
I didn't know how I was going to pay for the extra amounts for all these competitions.Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, on the training costs of a Brisbane meet, which is now defrayed by extra funding from a $2m war chest for SEA Games athletes announced yesterday
Such campaign-based funding was first introduced in the lead-up to the 2015 SEA Games at home, and was also available for athletes preparing for last year's Rio Olympics.
Only those who are not on the spexScholarship programme are eligible.
SportSG chief executive Lim Teck Yin told The New Paper that such campaign-based funding is here to stay for future major Games.
He said: "We recognise that in the high-performance system, training never stops.
"Athletes roll from one major Games to another. What we do with the campaign funding is to focus certain kinds of effort for a particular Games.
"Before 2015, we never had campaign-based funding; we put it all as part of the annual grants to national sports associations, but that tended not to have the kind of focus that we can better achieve with a separate fund."
Lim-Prasad is among those who will receive extra financial aid from the $2m war chest.
She said: "For now, this is my career and it's nice to know that at least I am earning a little stipend, and I can be taken care of to a certain extent.
"The spexScholarship is the best avenue for full-time athletes, but it's reserved for the highest tier of athletes.
"Hopefully, I will get there in my journey to at least the Asian Games (in Indonesia) next year."
Athletes receive help on employment and academic fronts
When para-sailor Yap Qian Yin wanted to switch jobs last August, she approached the Singapore Sports Institute's (SSI) athlete services and development department for help.
Little did the 27-year-old expect to find a job with the Pan Pacific Hotels Group within two weeks, under the spexBusiness scheme, and she was even allowed to defer her first day of work as an accounts officer until after the Rio Paralympics in September.
Now, Team Singapore athletes preparing for life after sports look set to have an easier time with their job search, with the launch of the spexBusiness application yesterday at the Parkroyal on Beach Road.
More than 1,500 carded athletes here can utilise this programme.
If there are relevant openings, they will be matched with any of the 39 companies in the spexBusiness network once they submit their qualifications and requirements, such as flexibility in working hours.
Nine companies, including the Pan Pacific Hotels Group and ONE Championship, have been added to the network this year, while an additional three institutes of higher learning - Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and SIM Global Education - have joined the spexEducation framework.
The latter scheme, with 10 institutions on board, offers student-athletes flexibility to pursue both their sporting dreams and studies at the same time.
To date, almost 500 athletes have benefited from both schemes.
In her speech, guest of honour Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth said: "The support from our spexBusiness and spexEducation partners have been invaluable... Together you will open up new opportunities for our athletes.
"They can devote their time and energy to train, knowing that their career and educational aspirations are being supported by you."
In addition, the SSI has partnered the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to provide services, such as career coaching, to Team Singapore athletes.
Silat exponent Sheik Farhan is heartened by the slew of initiatives available to him when he eventually enters the job market.
The third-year Nanyang Polytechnic precision engineering student said: "It gives athletes the assurance now that they can find jobs easily in the future." - LIM SAY HENG