In response to a Parliamentary Question by Workers’ Party’s Dennis Tan Lip Fong 陈立峰 on 11 September, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu stated that “…under the High Performance Sports system, Team Singapore athletes are provided comprehensive support in the form of financial grants, training and competition opportunities, as well as coaching, sports science and medicine support.”
But if there is such ‘comprehensive support’ for our athletes, then why are so many athletes lamenting the lack of financial resources and support in sports?
Why are athletes fighting hard for what little they receive from their personal sponsors? Aren’t these symptoms of a larger problem at hand?
Minister Grace Fu also stated that “Team Singapore athletes, who are not spexScholars, also receive campaign funding to help them prepare and train full-time in the lead-up to Major Games.”
This statement gives the impression that all our athletes who participated at the SEA Games were eligible for campaign funding. Were all the athletes from our contingent eligible for the funding or was it only available to the gold medal potentials? Or were the National Sports Associations allowed to decide how the campaign funding was utilised?
And when money was available, even gold medal potentials had issues gaining access to the funds. Squash player Vivian Rhamanan had his application for funds for full-time training rejected.
Boxer Mohd Hanurdeen, a silver medalist at the 2015 SEA Games and one of our 2010 Youth Olympic Games athletes who also wanted to train full-time, gave up on seeking financial support when there was just one too many administrative hurdles to navigate through.
SEA Games aside, sailors Griselda Khng & Olivia Chen, who are aiming to qualify for the Asian Games 2018 and Tokyo 2020, are getting nil support from the government, and are relying on family and donors to support their journey.
The Facebook post by Dipna Lim Prasad post-Games is another indicator of the painful disquiet in terms of funding needs for our athletes.
While the Government has said that there is more money for our athletes during the Committee of Supply debates early this year, the question is if the money is really trickling down to our athletes to support them.
As Dipna has said in her Facebook post, funding is an important conversation we need to have for sports in Singapore, and contrary to the response in Parliament, I would argue support for our national athletes is far from comprehensive and requires a review.
Note: This is my personal view and do not represent the views any of the organisations which I hold positions at.