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Duo skate into Sports School in boost for winter disciplines

In a sign of its growing prominence here, winter sports athletes are now enrolled in the Singapore Sports School (SSP) for the first time since the Woodlands premises was opened in 2004.

Figure skater Pagiel Sng, 12, and short track speed skater Trevor Tan, 14 - both of whom are in the national squads - joined SSP in January and are part of its individual sport programme, which includes student-athletes from golf, silat and gymnastics.

Under this scheme, the SSP provides sports science and fitness support and allow the student-athletes to customise their timetables. The respective national sports associations (NSAs) are responsible for the training programmes.

Singapore Ice Skating Association president Sonja Chong noted this was a step in the right direction for the development of winter sports, which will make its debut at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.

The Republic sent 22 athletes - its biggest contingent - to last month's Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. The next two Winter Olympic Games (2018 in Pyeongchang and 2022 in Beijing) will be also held in Asia.

Chong told The Straits Times: "Although our skaters will need to train at The Rink (at JCube mall in Jurong East) outside of the school, there is still the big advantage of collaborating with the school to better balance their school and examinations with training and competitions so as to optimise their sporting potential.

"The access to sports medicine and sports science support will also be invaluable in their development and performance. We hope that more athletes will be able to join Trevor and Pagiel, and that eventually all dry-land training can be based at the SSP."

The flexible schedule offered at SSP was a boon, said Secondary Three student Trevor, who picked up the sport in 2013 and has represented the Republic in several international events.

Previously enrolled at Swiss Cottage Secondary School, he had to pick bowling as his co-curricular activity (CCA) as ice-skating was not deemed an official CCA.

He said: "Sometimes after bowling training I would feel too tired for ice-skating training, but now I have more time to focus on my sport. Instead of focusing on two different sports, I can also use the time for gym sessions after school."

The SSP has nine sports academies - badminton, bowling, fencing, netball, football, shooting, swimming, table tennis and athletics - and the school is in charge of the training curriculum.

SSP principal Tan Teck Hock welcomed more high-performing youth athletes in sports outside its academy line-up.

"We offers these youth athletes who show the potential to excel in their sport, an athlete-friendly academic support to help these student-athletes balance their studies better as they pursue their sport dreams."

Pagiel's father Gary was happy with the support provided to his son. He said: "SSP allows Pagiel to continue in his sporting pursuit without compromising on his academic areas and vice versa.

"In addition, the school is able to supplement his development with further physical training and physiotherapy support, which are not available in a mainstream school."