By Benjamin Cheah
On Tuesday, 25-year-old Ms Saiyidah Aisyah Mohamed Rafa’ee won a gold medal at the South-east Asian Games in the women’s lightweight single sculls 2000m competition. It was the first time Singapore had won a gold in rowing since 1997. On this and a string of other victories at the SEA Games, the Singapore Sports Council said nothing.
The SSC’s mission statement is to “transform the nation through sport, by inspiring people and uniting communities.” It does this by working with “a vast network of public-private-and people sector partners to create access, opportunities and capabilities for individuals to live better through sports.”
TODAY newspaper described the local rowing community as smal and said attrition at the elite level is high. Since 2011, Saiyidah, a Singaporean, had been training by herself. To make matters worse, the Singapore Sports Council stopped funding the Singapore Rowing Association in the middle of 2013..
Her two coaches, Goken Sakamoto and Alan Benett, trained her for free. The only funding she recieved was $10,000 from the Peter Lim Scholarship, which she used for a two-and-a-half month spell in Melbourne to train full-time with Benett. The scholarship is administered through the Singapore Olympic Foundation.
Instead of directly funding Ms Saiyidah, the SSC has provided other forms of support. On her Facebook page, Ms Aisyah said, “SSC has provided me with other benefits with help in medical, athlete-career, nutrition support and recently they have given me a bit of allowance to cover for the loss of wages I am experiencing by putting my job on hold.”
Among other things, Singapore has also scored several other firsts. Mok Ying Ren won Singapore’s first gold medal in the Men’s Marathon. Chang Jing Ru attained Singapore’s first gold medal for archery since 1983. Dinah Chan clinched the first gold in the 30km individual cycling competition since 1997. Dipna Lim-Prasad broke the national 400m hurdles record with a time of 59.96 seconds – and in so doing became the first Singapore woman to win a SEA Games athletic track medal since 1993 with a bronze.
Despite these many achievements, the SSC’s Facebook page is blank, while its website’s news releases have not mentioned any of these achievements.
Belmont Lay from mothership.sg said: “A word of congratulations isn’t too much to ask for at a time like this. Or how about explaining themselves?”
When Yahoo covered the story of Saidiyah’s victory, readers left comments slamming the sports council.
‘Choo’ said: “The government should reconsider sponsoring and funding this solo sportswoman and her passion for this sport.”
‘*N*’ posted: “Heartiest congratulations! True blue Singaporeans are extremely proud of you! Shame on the government for not funding you; instead they are fully funding the FT sportsmen and women.”
On Facebook, users are leaving one-star reviews and pointed questions on the SSC’s page.
“Why are you not funding our local talent?” Edward Cheang asked.
Usop Sontorian added: “Hope that SSC can fund more deserving Singapore-born sportsmen and women instead of bringing in foreign ‘talents’. How can I feel proud when a PRC person represents Singapore. Singaporeans for Singapore please! [sic]”
The Singapore Sports Council maintained its silence when we approached them for a comment.