SportsSG chief: 'Sword to be sharpened' in high-performance support
SportSG chief executive Lim says issues like KPIs are under the microscope
The government may soon be more clinical in its support for athletes through its High-Performance System (HPS).
The HPS helps more than 1,500 athletes across about 50 sports through avenues like grants, sports science and medical expertise, and stipends.
The centrepiece of the system is the $40 million Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship), where 72 elite athletes are identified as having the potential to excel at the Asian, world and Olympic levels.
The HPS is currently under review following a stellar 2016, highlighted by swimmer Joseph Schooling's historic Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.
Swimmer Yip Pin Xiu also bagged two gold medals at the Paralympics, while teammate Theresa Goh clinched a bronze.
The authorities are aiming to complete the HPS assessment by April.
During a wide-ranging interview with The New Paper last week, Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive Lim Teck Yin said: "The answer cannot be more money (to be pumped into the HPS), it should be geared around a sharpened focus.
"During the early days of spexScholarship some people complained a lot about KPIs (key performance indicators), that if they didn't meet these KPIs they would lose their scholarship.
"If you cannot take the heat, why would I think that you have the mind of a champion, on a world stage where the pressure is going to be so intense?"
How do we articulate KPIs? Is it purely in medals? Is it sufficient to (just) have Olympic qualification on merit?Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive Lim Teck Yin
He pointed out that the elite athlete support system has evolved greatly in recent years - predecessors Project 0812 and the Olympic Pathway Programme (OPP) focused on small groups of athletes at the Olympic level, while the spexScholarship helps more athletes at Olympic, world and continental levels.
"What is the right balance between the OPP and this broader-based spexScholarship?" he pondered.
"How do we articulate KPIs? Is it purely in medals? Is it sufficient to (just) have Olympic qualification on merit?
"The review needs to answer these very hard questions."
The assessment will also look at how to better support 21-year-old Schooling, the Republic's first Olympic champion, and how to provide a leg up for young athletes with potential and desire, but who struggle to produce results.
Schooling, who is studying and training at the University of Texas, is gearing up for the world championships in July in Budapest and the South-east Asia Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.
He had called for more support for talented young athletes during his sojourn here last November, and Lim said: "There is an element of trying to understand at which early stage support needs to come in, what can we do to identify (talent) and whether it's a risk that we are willing to take.
"At the same time, there needs to be a question of whether we are correctly supporting this athlete."
The likely tightening of standards should not necessarily mean shaving numbers off the HPS.
Lim said: "It cannot start from that premise because the starting point of the scholarship is that those with the right potential should be supported.
"But it should mean that we are sharpening the sword."