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Parliament: New $50m matching grant for elite athletes

The Government has pledged an additional $50 million over the next five years for high performance sport, but as much as another $100 million could separately be channelled into backing elite athletes, if a new matching grant is maximised successfully.

This comes after a new One Team Singapore matching grant was announced yesterday, an initiative that will see the Government match dollar-for-dollar donations - up to $50 million over the next five years - in a bid to grow the resource pool that the nation's sporting best can draw from.

The initiatives come after a historic year for Singapore sport.

Swimmer Joseph Schooling won the Republic's first Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, while para-swimmers Yip Pin Xiu (two golds) and Theresa Goh (one bronze) also reached the Paralympic podium.

It is hoped that the matching grant will prompt the corporate sector and the public to contribute to the success of national athletes.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced the grant yesterday in Parliament, while speaking about enhancements to the High Performance Sports (HPS) system.

The HPS' $50 million - first announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget - will be disbursed on top of the existing budget for the HPS system, bringing expenditure to about $70 million a year.

The HPS, which supports both able-bodied athletes as well as those with disabilities, covers components such as athletes' allowances, annual grants to national sports associations, as well as sports medicine and sports science support.

The new injection is expected to put a targeted focus on building support capability in areas like coaching and technical know-how.

It will also be used to give athletes more opportunities to train and compete in a more conducive environment.

"Podium success at world championships and the Olympics requires a focused and sustained effort at all levels," said Ms Fu.

"A talented and dedicated athlete is a necessary starting point. To groom that athlete into a world champion, we need great coaches supported by deep sports science and sports medicine capabilities."

She was responding to questions from Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) about government efforts to further enhance the support system for top athletes.

It is understood that under this additional funding, resources will also be set aside for athletes who aim to shine at major Games but do not come under the Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholarship, the country's elite sports support programme.

The new targeted funding could put athletes such as Olympians Justin Liu and Denise Lim in good stead as the sailors aim for a run at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Despite qualifying for Rio in 2015, the pair, who did not meet the Singapore Sailing Federation's criteria for funding then and are not Spex scholarship recipients, got there largely on their own dime.

They forked out an estimated $100,000 to cover travel and training needs, even paying their coach's salary themselves.

Said Liu, who estimated that their 2020 campaign could cost $100,000 a year: "One of the biggest challenges in our Rio campaign was when we were trying to secure qualification.

"We fell through the cracks and struggled for funds. Hopefully, the additional funding will be beneficial for athletes like us."