A brief history of Sports Excellence programmes

Sprinter U.K. Shyam was the first beneficiary of the Athletes Career and Training programme. The scheme, still a part ofthe Singapore Sports Council’s support programme today, aids about 50 athletes each year.

Sports excellence, while not a foreign idea, is one that is still relatively new to Singapore.

The Republic began focusing on elite sports only about 20 years ago, when the Government pledged more funds to back the quest for medals.

Until then, Singapore's more notable sporting achievements were limited to weightlifter Tan Howe Liang's Olympic silver in 1960 and swimmer Ang Peng Siong's gold at the 1982 Asian Games.

Sports Excellence 2000 - or Spex 2000 - was launched in 1993.

The $10 million blueprint was aimed at helping Singapore athletes train and compete without being unduly distracted by money or studies. The goal: Asian Games and Olympic success.

Funds were injected into just seven Core sports: athletics, badminton, bowling, football, swimming and water polo, sailing and table tennis.

Almost a decade later in 2002, the Athletes Career and Training programme was launched. It was targeted at providing a viable safety net for athletes through assistance in education and jobs after sports.

Sprinter UK Shyam was the first beneficiary, receiving up to $35,000 in grants a year.

The scheme, still a part of the Singapore Sports Council's support programme today, aids about 50 athletes each year.

The search for Olympic glory came later in the form of Project 0812, which evolved into the Olympic Pathway Programme in 2009.

Both programmes promised millions for athletes who had the potential to reach the podium at the Games. The Olympic Pathway Programme, for instance, poured its $6.5 million war chest into 11 athletes across four sports.

The shift of focus to sports excellence has played a considerable role in Singapore sport's gold rush.

At the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, Singapore's 131-strong contingent took home one silver and four bronzes.

By the 2010 Guangzhou edition, Team Singapore's 240 athletes had bagged four golds, seven silvers and six bronzes.

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