Shanti Pereira, Terry Hee, Jessica Tan among seven new Spex scholars for 2022
Sprinter Shanti Pereira has had a stellar year so far. Seven years after breaking the national record to win her first SEA Games 200m title, she pulled off another incredible win at the Hanoi edition in May and rewrote her national record.
Barely three months later, she raised the bar even higher by lowering her 200m record yet again at the Commonwealth Games and also broke her 100m national record in Birmingham.
The icing on the cake came on Thursday when national agency Sport Singapore announced that she was one of seven athletes who have joined this year’s Sport Excellence (Spex) Scholarship programme.
The others are shuttlers Terry Hee, Jessica Tan, Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong; fencer Cheung Kemei and shooter Fernel Tan. Their addition takes the total number of Spex scholars to 77.
Four other athletes – Contessa Loh (archery), Quah Ting Wen (swimming), Reuben Rainer Lee and Marc Brian Louis (both athletics) – also had their scholarships renewed.
SportSG had announced the 2022 batch of recipients in May but conducted a second round of assessment within the same year for the first time. The seven new recipients had applied for the 2022 scholarship last year.
Kon Yin Tong, chairman of the spexScholarship selection committee and chairman of SportSG, said: “We have seen outstanding performances from several Team Singapore athletes since the beginning of this year in major Games and international competitions, and it’s only apt that we offer these athletes the spexScholarship now to provide them an increased level of support to motivate them to achieve their performance goals, and better prepare for their upcoming competitions.”
Pereira, 26, who was previously a Spex scholar between 2016 and 2018, was ecstatic to be included in the scheme again. The spexScholarship offers support for athletes who are deemed to have the potential to excel on the Asian and world stage. Aside from monthly stipends, scholars also get support in the areas of education, sports science and nutrition, among others.
She said: “This was one of the goals my coach and I set out for me... We have been working really hard, finding ways to develop a better mindset, focusing on recovery, nutrition and what works best for my body, while putting in quality sessions for better performance, amidst gruelling and hectic work schedules off the track.
“It has been a tough seven years trying to gain my confidence back, but I’m glad that all the hard work has paid off so far, and I’m excited for what’s to come in the next couple of years together with SSI (Singapore Sport Institute) and the spexScholarship.”
Hee, who made history with his wife and doubles partner Tan by winning Singapore’s first Commonwealth Games mixed doubles gold, said the scholarship will help them compete more often and earn ranking points as they bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympics. They can now dream of going on an overseas training stint too.
He added: “I believe as long as you do well enough, your achievements will be recognised, so one thing I always tell myself is to work hard in silence, and let your success be the noise.”
SEA Games individual foil bronze medallist Cheung, 17, also said the scholarship will support her journey towards Paris 2024 by allowing her to train and compete internationally.
Reflecting on her struggles over the last few years, Pereira encouraged those who are in the same boat not to give up.
She added: “For other athletes who may not be doing so well now, I think it’s important to realise that ultimately, it’s your own journey and you’re the only person that can determine what you do with it. Sacrifices must be made, but as long as you focus on that and the goals you want to achieve, the results will come in due time.”