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SEA Games Champs Look to Overcome Funding Hurdle

Saiyidah Aisyah

(L-R) Chief Executive, Tote Board Fong Yong Kian, Team Singapore’s Chef-de-mission Annabel Pennefather, national rower Saiyidah Aisyah, DPM Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Secretary, MCCY, Hugh Lim at the 27th SEA Games MAP Award & Appreciation Lunch. Photo by Wee Teck Hian, TODAY

(Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Press Ltd. Article first appeared in TODAY.)
BY ADELENE WONG, TODAY 8 FEBRUARY 2014

Within a month of winning Singapore’s first SEA Games gold medal in cycling in 16 years at last December’s SEA Games in Myanmar, Dinah Chan received a call from a potential corporate sponsor pledging her monetary support.

The news was a huge boost for Chan who wants to defend her title at next year’s SEA Games on home soil.

Chan, like many other athletes who excelled in traditionally less popular sports at last year’s SEA Games, including equestrienne Janine Khoo and rower Saiyidah Aisyah, are already finding their own means to support their paths towards the 2015 Games.

“Athletes all need funds to train and excel, but our National Sports Associations (NSAs) are tight in funds … So I decided I need to do something on my own,” said Chan at the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP) ceremony at the Swissotel Merchant Court Ballroom yesterday.

Sourcing for funds is a perennial challenge for many NSAs. While figures for the current fiscal year were not available, cycling and rowing received between S$200,000 and S$499,000 in annual grants from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) for the previous financial year, with equestrian receiving less than S$100,000.

Now on no-pay leave for a year from her job as a teacher in an attempt to qualify for this year’s Asian Games in Incheon, Chan forks out an average of S$2000 to S$3,000 annually for trainings and competitions.

For national rower Saiyidah, who won her sport’s first gold at the Games since 1997 (women’s 2km lightweight single sculls), she has the S$10,000 from the Singapore Olympic Foundation’s Peter Lim Scholarship, along with her job as a student development manager at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, to lean on. But she is concerned for her seven other national team-mates who are students.

“I hope we can get more funding for sure, or it will be hard, especially for my team-mates to gain overseas exposure which is important in developing their skills,” said Saiyidah.

Others like 16-year-old Janine, who won the individual showjumping event in Myanmar, had to come up with “at least a crazy sum of $10,000″ from her own pocket to train for last year’s SEA Games, including for overseas competitions and maintenance of horses which can cost S$1,800 a month.

“It is hard to say whether funding or results should come first … (but) I hope the SSC can take some sort of risk to invest more in us,” she said.

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