Jiu-jitsu exponent Constance Lien gets a boost from Spex Scholarship
She is first jiu-jitsu exponent to get sports scholarship, after winning world title and SEA Games gold
Jiu-jitsu exponent Constance Lien has spent over $22,000 as she scaled the heights of her sport to become a world champion last year.
The financial strain on her and her family was alleviated yesterday, when the 20-year-old was awarded the Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholarship.
The scheme, which is into its seventh year, offers enhanced levels of support for elite athletes, with the aim of achieving results at major Games.
"I feel honoured to be awarded the Spex Scholarship and it would definitely help me in terms of funding my overseas competitions, training and gym fees," Lien, who also won a SEA Games gold medal last year, told The New Paper.
"It also serves as a great motivation for me, knowing that I have the support I need to be the best athlete I can be."
Lien has won several accolades since taking up the martial art four years ago. But she has also racked up huge expenses.
Last May, she clinched the women's blue belt featherweight (Under-58.5kg) title at the World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Los Angeles.
But competition fees alone set her back $10,000. Her gym fees amounted to $3,000 a year, while her equipment costs a few hundreds.
Lien was among 17 new student-athletes across 14 sports who received the Spex Scholarship, with jiu-jitsu, ice-skating and triathlon being represented for the first time.
Of this current cohort of 79 scholars, 11 are renewals from the previous batch.
While the scholarship comes as a boost, the postponement of this year's World Championships due to the coronavirus crisis means Lien will need to adjust her plans for a second world title.
Lien, who was on a gap year in 2019, had planned to take part in the world meet, which was initially scheduled for late May or early June in Los Angeles.
But the pandemic has caused it to be postponed until further notice.
Meanwhile, the Temasek Polytechnic graduate has already planned to resume her studies in August. She has secured a place at the Singapore Institute of Technology, and has also applied for a sports science programme at the Nanyang Technological University.
A heavier workload, juggling both studies and training, is ahead of her, but she is unfazed.
"The Covid-19 pandemic is a very unfortunate situation and it definitely has rearranged my plans a little," said Lien, who is now a purple-belt holder.
"I have university coming up, so that's going to be tricky. But, like every athlete, I have to adapt."
Being a graduate from the Singapore Sports School (SSP), the former swimmer is no stranger to juggling sport and studies.
"Should I be starting university and training for the Worlds at the same time, I will be getting back into the student-athlete lifestyle and I don't really have an issue with that," she said.
"I have learnt a lot from my time at SSP... on how to manage my time well... I've been doing it for so long... It's just a matter of adapting again."
With her training base Evolve MMA closed as part of safe distancing measures, Lien continues to keep herself fit through gym sessions, weight training at home and sparring with her boyfriend.
Lien, who was named the 2019 Sportsgirl of the Year after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games, also seeks out videos to help improve her techniques and practise new drills.
She is also looking at what she can do for the community.
Having struggled with issues ranging from eating disorder to insecurity and self esteem to managing expectations, she recognises the need to raise awareness on mental and emotional health.
The Sport Singapore ambassador often puts up videos on her social media platforms to reach out to her followers, while also mentoring kids in primary schools and youths at risk.
"I have always been passionate about mental and emotional health, because of my own life experiences as an athlete," said The Straits Times Athlete of the Year.
"In my videos, I've always been real. I don't just talk about my victories, I talk about my losses as well. I talk about what I go through as an athlete, as an individual.
"I talk about my emotions... that way, I become more relatable to the viewers."
This year's new Spex scholars
Archery: Madeleine Ong
Athletics: Marc Brian Louis (110m, 400m hurdles), Reuben Rainer Lee (100m, 200m)
Bowling: Jermaine Seah, Charmaine Chang
Cuesports: Aloysius Yapp
Cycling: Elyas Yusoff Disability Sports (Athletics): Diroy Noordin (para shot-put)
Fencing: Denyse Chan
Ice-skating: Trevor Tan (short track speed skating)
Jiu-jitsu: Constance Lien
Sailing: Lee Wonn Kye
Swimming: Christie Chue, Mikkel Lee
Silat: Syakir Jeffry
Triathlon: Emma Middleditch
Wushu: Isabel Chua