Sprinter Shanti and rower Saiyidah selected for elite SpexScholarship programme
Sprinter is now a spexScholar; rower Saiyidah also gets the nod in new cohort of elite athletes
She blazed a trail for Singapore athletics last year when she became the nation's first sprinter in 42 years to win a South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal.
Yesterday, Shanti Pereira - who won the women's 200m SEA Games title on home soil last June- broke new ground for her sport once again.
She became track and field's first recipient of the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship), which is aimed at developing athletes with potential to win medals at the Asian, world and Olympic level.
The 19-year-old Republic Polytechnic student said: "I am deeply honoured. I applied because I want to make it to the Asian Games in 2018 and the Olympic Games in 2020.
"I will definitely be increasing my training hours, using all the technology available at the SSI (Singapore Sports Institute)... as well as to bulk up," said the Singapore Sports School graduate, who will continue training under coach Margaret Oh, but could further her studies and training in the United States from next year.
"Once I do all those (things), I will be able to go faster."
In addition to Shanti, Saiyidah Aisyah also made history when she became the first rower to receive the scholarship, which was launched in 2014 with a $40 million war chest over five years.
The two are among 17 new athletes to be admitted into the group of elite sportsmen and sportswomen who are given greater support in areas like sports science and medicine, stipends and career planning.
They received their certificates from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday at the Sports Hub's Black Box Auditorium.
There are 72 spexScholars this year.
The scholarships for the cohort will start on April 1, and in the group are 21 athletes who have had their scholarships renewed, while 34 are already existing spexScholars.
Eleven athletes from last year's cohort - including swimmer Tao Li - have completed their term and left the scheme, while four, including paddler Isabelle Li, have withdrawn.
SSI's head of high performance Richard Gordon explained: "Isabelle is a special case; she was awarded a PSC (Public Service Commission) scholarship and wasn't allowed to hold both awards.
"She's also just returned from injury and not having a full-time training load.
"She's trying to balance her studies and sports."
Sixteen sports are represented in the group, but athletes in team sports were conspicuously absent from this year's list.
Footballers Hariss Harun and Izwan Mahbud were named as athletes with future potential in 2014, and received targeted support then.
Said Gordon: "We had the Final Push Programme in the year leading up to the SEA Games (in 2015) and that proved to be a useful vehicle for supporting teams around specific campaigns.
"Is the spexScholarship the right vehicle to support team sports?
"I am not convinced.
"I think campaign-based support is (the right avenue) and I think there will be more of that coming up (for team sports)."
In her speech, Minister Fu urged the elite athletes not to forget to give back. She said: "As spexScholars, other aspiring athletes will be looking to you as role models.
"I hope that you will remember to give back, by encouraging and inspiring others and helping develop your respective sports."
Quah swimming siblings nab scholarships
They proved their potential by claiming 23 golds at the South-east Asia Games on home soil last year - more than a quarter of Team Singapore's historic 84-gold haul.
And Singapore's swimmers have now set their sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
One piece of the jigsaw was set in place when the Singapore Swimming Association hired American Sergio Lopez last year on a five-year contract to spearhead the project, along with assistant Gary Tan.
Yesterday, another key piece was put in place when nine swimmers were awarded the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) at the Sports Hub's Black Box Auditorium.
The nine, including Quah Zheng Wen and his siblings Ting Wen and Jing Wen, are among 17 new recipients of the award this year.
Including the newcomers, there are now 15 swimmers on the 72-strong list, including United States-based world championship bronze medallist Joseph Schooling, the biggest group of athletes from a single sport in the programme.
Singapore Sports Institute's head of high performance Richard Gordon said a combination of factors - such as good coaches, ideal coach-to-swimmer ratio, intensive training and the use of sports science and medicine - has made swimming a success story, at least in the spexScholarship programme.
The $40 million scheme is designed to help athletes with potential to excel at the 2018 Asian Games and the 2020 Olympic Games.
He said: "Talent and hard work forms probably 90 per cent of an athlete's performance and the remaining 10 per cent is the sports science and medicine.
"What you do on a daily basis, that's where your medals and results will come from. And that's why swimming is hitting the mark."
Zheng Wen, 19, will have his 13-month scholarship backdated to last August, after he was granted deferment from full-time National Service the month before.
He is the only recipient whose scholarship is out of cycle, with the rest starting their terms on April 1.
Zheng Wen said: "I am just really happy to be given the opportunity to work hard and be the best that I can be with all that I have been provided.
"We have a biomechanist; he does filming for us underwater and the feedback he gives us is really helpful.
"It really makes you think how your body is in the water and helps us swimmers tune the finer aspects of our racing and strokes.
"It's been an eye opener for me."