Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Aim is to reduce need for Foreign Sports Talent, hints Chan

LONDON - Singapore's national table tennis team has consistently produced results on the biggest stages, including the Olympics, with the women's team winning a bronze medal in London yesterday.

However, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), which runs the national side, have also often drawn public flak for a perceived over-reliance on their Foreign Sports Talent (FST) scheme despite having a number of talent identification programmes at grassroots level.

While there are no plans for the controversial scheme to be re-looked, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Chan Chun Sing has hinted at the aim of eventually reducing the need for it.

"It depends on which sports we're talking about. For the FST scheme, different sports will have different needs," said Mr Chan.

"Our aim is for them to catalyse the development of the sports and, over time, when these sports mature and we have more Singaporeans joining the ranks of these respective sports, we will see an evolution of the scheme in the respective sports."

He added: "We definitely want to have our system groom a core of Singaporean talent in the respective sports. That will be how we go forward."

First introduced as the Rainbow Scheme in 1993, it eventually evolved into the FST scheme with the primary aim of recruiting good quality talent as a catalyst to boost the standards of Singapore athletes.

Since then, more than 50 athletes in over five sports have come through the system.

Ten of Singapore's 23 athletes competing in nine sports at the London Olympics were part of the FST, including table-tennis player Feng Tianwei who clinched the bronze medal in the women's singles last Wednesday.

Mr Chan was speaking at a Team Singapore dinner at the Millennia Gloucester Hotel in central London on Monday night (yesterday morning, Singapore time) to celebrate the athletes' participation in the London Olympics and to mark Singapore's 47th National Day tomorrow.

Those present included paddlers Gao Ning, Yang Zi and Zhan Jian, sprinter Gary Yeo, hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, shuttler Yao Lei and gymnast Lim Heem Wei, chef-de-mission Jessie Phua, Singapore Sports Council Chief Executive Lim Teck Yin, International Olympic Committee Vice-President Ng Ser Miang and Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, T Jasudasen.

Mr Chan also spoke about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement last week that sports would be moved to the new Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) from Nov 1 onwards.

The development has caused some concern within the sporting fraternity. As the word "sports" will not be in the new Ministry's name, questions have been raised over whether there will be less priority for sports in Singapore.

But Mr Chan, who said Singapore can learn a lot from London's organising of the Olympics, stressed that sports will not be pushed down the pecking order. "Sports will be in good hands," he said.

"We will in no way underplay the role of sports, we will continue in our journey of sports, both as a pursuit of individual excellence, while using sports as a way to bond the community and to inspire the nation. That will not change.

"The Vision 2030 plan has been developed by all the stakeholders involved, so it goes beyond any personnel change in the Ministry.

"I am quietly confident that with the support of the stakeholders from the private, public and people sectors, sports will be in good shape."

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