27 April 2011

More Singapore athletes funded by Olympic Pathway Programme

More to get funds boost@straits times

A CLUTCH of national athletes look set to go on the Olympic Pathway Programme (OPP) to boost Singapore's hopes of winning medals at the 2012 London Games.

It will be the first time new names are being added to the original list of six athletes since the OPP, which provides additional funding to medal hopefuls, was launched in May 2009.

The Straits Times understands that shuttlers Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari will be joined by a few shooters.

Yao and Shinta won the women's doubles silver at last October's Commonwealth Games, and became the first Singaporeans to clinch a Super Series title at the Singapore Open last June.

The shooters who have been picked are believed to be gold medallists at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Newly crowned Sportsman of the Year Gai Bin, Poh Lip Meng, Nigel Lim and Aqilah Sudhir all topped the podium in New Delhi, and will be hoping to join teammate Jasmine Ser in the OPP.

Ser, paddlers Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei and Yu Mengyu, and swimmer Tao Li formed the first batch of athletes when the OPP was introduced by Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Transport) Teo Ser Luck.

Mr Teo oversees the OPP's steering committee, which also comprises Singapore Sports Council and Singapore National Olympic Council representatives.

Thus far, a war-chest of $6.3 million has been set aside for the six athletes.

This translates to about $1 million for each, and is a top-up over and above the annual grants to the respective national sports associations.

The funds, from the Government and the Singapore Totalisator Board, are largely used for training and competition expenses.

The OPP's qualifying criteria differ with each sport, and are based on factors such as the level of competition and the events they participated in.

It is also important that the athletes carry a high world ranking or have had significant achievements at the World Championships or equivalent competitions for their sport.

Yao and Shinta boast a world No. 10 ranking in the women's doubles, and carry Singapore's badminton hopes in London. Yao said: 'It serves as motivation to work harder.'

With the Olympics just 15 months away, Singapore Shooting Association high performance executive Ho Tsu Cher said the OPP will be both a funding and confidence booster for the selected shooters.

'It'll be a shot in the arm for them as they try to bring Singapore sports to another level,' he said.

But Olympic silver medallist Li Jiawei could miss out. Li was omitted from the initial selection in 2009 as she was pregnant then. Now, the world No. 23 is the third-highest ranked Singapore paddler, behind Feng (No. 6) and Wang (No. 12).

According to a source, it is because there are already four paddlers in the programme. It would be difficult to have a fifth when the Olympics team event consists of only three players, said the source.

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