Aim is the world stage, says Sports School principal Tan
Sports School's ultimate aim is to see its student-athletes make it on the world stage, says principal Tan
Since it was founded in 2004, athletes from the Singapore Sports School (SSP) have combined for an impressive 98 medals - 46 golds, 27 silvers and 25 bronzes - in five editions of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
With 102 past and present students competing at next month's Games, the Woodlands-based institution is set to play a big role in Team Singapore's bid for regional glory again.
The likes of swimmer Tao Li, sprinter Shanti Pereira and paddler Isabelle Li - all SSP alumnae - are just some of the country's medal hopefuls when Singapore hosts the meet for the first time since 1993.
While SSP principal Tan Teck Hock believes success at the SEA Games is proof that the school is on the right path, he insists it should also serve as motivation for their students to aim for bigger and better things.
"When you look back at the establishment of the school in 2004, there were quite a number of detractors and doubters," he told the New Paper in an interview yesterday.
"Today, with just over 100 past and present student-athletes set to participate at the coming Games, it's an affirmation of how much the Singapore Sports School has contributed to Team Singapore.
"We've definitely validated the faith that the government and public put in us in developing those with the talent, ambition and motivation to compete in sports at the highest level.
"But what the school really hopes for is to ultimately have an athlete performing on the world stage.
"Every little success allows us to push the boundary a little further and reminds us that we're on the right path, but it's not just about the SEA Games, Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, for that matter.
"We want to reach the highest possible level and, one day, we hope to see one of our own standing on the podium at the Olympic Games."
As Singapore prepares to host the Games, organisers have launched a series of initiatives and campaigns to ensure there will be no shortage of home support.
Nonetheless, Tan revealed that all SSP students will also be present at the various events to cheer on their former and current schoolmates, and hopes the next generation will be inspired by the current crop of stars.
"It is significant for every student to see what their seniors are doing and achieving and to have that etched in their memories," he explained.
"We remind them that these athletes were also once like them - small, young kids coming through our doors - and it serves as a constant reminder what they must aim towards.
"Success breeds more success and for the students to watch their seniors become champions helps to build a culture and create a mindset that is crucial for young athletes.
"Every new cohort of students should always be looking to break barriers and better previous generations; that's what defines us as an institution."
Next month's SEA Games will have extra significance, given that it also coincides with Singapore celebrating 50 years of independence.
Given how far the Republic has progressed as a nation, Tan believes the Games provides an excellent opportunity to showcase how much the sporting scene has developed as well.
"Having the SEA Games here in Singapore is just one of the many ways we'll celebrate SG50 this year," he added.
"We want to be part of these celebrations and are happy to contribute in any small way we can to the significance of the Games being held here.
"With the golden jubilee symbolising Singapore's coming of age, we want to show that it's not just about economic success or having one of the best education systems in the world.
"It's also about finding all the different pockets that define success, and I believe sporting achievement is one of them."
● The writer is a freelancer.
'Don't doubt the SEA Games football team'
Things have not gone the way of the Singapore Under-23 football team and, with the football tournament of the SEA Games just a fortnight away, the pressure is mounting on Aide Iskandar's boys.
However, Singapore Sports School (SSP) principal Tan Teck Hock is backing the players to rise to the occasion and handle the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd.
After a 7-1 rout by Japan was followed by an embarrassing 3-1 defeat by Cambodia, doubts have been raised over the Young Lions' medal prospects, or whether they will even advance from Group A, which also includes Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and Cambodia.
The U-23 team are in the final phase of preparations - a week-long training tour in Japan - after which coach Aide will decide on his 20-man squad for the tournament.
Eleven former SSP students, including captain Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Shahfiq Ghani, Adam Swandi and Irfan Fandi (above), are in the running to make the final cut.
Should they earn the nod, Tan believes that their education at the Sports School will help them cope with the demands of the upcoming Games.
"It may be home advantage, but there will also be a lot of pressure playing in front of expectant fans," Tan told The New Paper.
"If you want to play at the highest level, you have to plan for all possibilities, and the psychological aspect is just one part of the preparations.
"But, when you see a number of the current crop being Sports School graduates, there has to be a reason why they've managed to make the grade to represent Singapore.
"The fact that they live, train and study here shapes their mindsets in a positive way.
"I think we must not take for granted that it's a very special environment they've grown up in, and it helps that they are given good support and training from a young age."
Unlike the many other sports in which the SSP has produced champions in, football has yet to claim a SEA Games gold, with the best achievement being three silver medals in 1983, 1985 and 1989.
Only time will tell if the footballers can win the elusive gold this year, but Tan has urged fans not to doubt the players' desire every time they take to the pitch to represent Singapore.
"I'd like to believe all of our athletes go out there and give it their best once they're wearing the flag," he said.
"In an ideal situation, the fans sing and cheer the team on and they win, but we must understand that not everyone finishes on the podium.
"From a young age, especially our students who join us when they're 12, there's a lot of effort and sacrifice on their part that goes a long way in determining their future success.
"They trade the life of normal kids and wake up at six to train, go for classes, train again in the afternoon and then study some more at night.
"There is a huge amount of sacrifices they make in order to do the country proud and I hope the fans can acknowledge that.
"Whether they win or lose is a different matter, but I would be disappointed if our athletes received any kind of 'support' that would be discouraging."
20 days to go
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SINGSOC
20: This year marks the 20th anniversary of Singapore's accession to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
In line with the 28th SEA Games' theme to "Celebrate the Extraordinary", the making of the mural (above) brought together 60 children and youth from different backgrounds, communities, ethnic groups and religions.
Bringing forth the spirit of the Games, children and youth are encouraged to interlace sport elements of their art pieces, which are joined together to create a mural to celebrate the extraordinary potential of our youth.
PHOTO: ST FILE
20: Singapore’s worldclass sailors will be competing in 20 events, where they hope to deliver a bumper crop of gold medals. Among them are last year’s Youth Olympic Games champions Samantha Yom (above, left) and Bernie Chin (above, right), who will compete in the female and male single-handed youth laser radial respectively.
- DAVID LEE