By Leo Khaw

If there's a medal for the highest cash payout for winning an Olympic gold, Singapore would top the charts.

Under the Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme (MAP), Olympic gold medal champions in individual events stand to win S$ 1 million, S$500,000 for silver and S$250,000.

For example, Feng Tianwei's bronze medal victory in the women's single of the table-tennis will earn her a quarter of a million dollars.

However, she has to plough a mandatory 20 per cent back into the National Sports Association for future training and development.

Excerpt from Yahoo! Sports SG Singapore tops world in Olympic gold medal cash payout


In light of this, are we to say or judge that Feng is playing under the Singapore Flag because of monetary motivations?

It would be unjust, premature and immature, should we do that as, besides other mainstream media, TOC has yet to interview her on both a personal and professional level. And neither does the lay person really know about her.

Feng, 26 years of age this coming 31 August, was born in a poor family in Harbin, Heilongjiang, People's Republic of China, whose father was a granary worker and mother was an employee of a department store. The family lived frugally for years to pay for her table tennis training. She was called up for the PRC national team in 2003 and in 2005 Feng left China to play in the Japanese professional league.

While there she was spotted by Liu Guodong, then a coach with the Singapore Table Tennis Association, in 2006. Feng was invited in March 2007 to train in Singapore under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme. She became a Singapore citizen in January 2008.

Her notable achievements among others include a silver medal for women’s table tennis (team) at the Beijing Olympics 2008 and 2 bronze medals for both the single’s and team events at the just recently concluded London Olympics 2012.

If we had or have home grown talent in the arena of table tennis, I am quite sure this prodigy would have already been talent spotted and groomed for the international stage.

But alas, whether we have or not, none have been prepared and we have come to rely on foreign talent.

However, in the case of Feng, I wonder when she first started training at table tennis so many years ago, did she ever realise that one day she will be playing under a different flag? And that she ever contemplated the monetary rewards would be that much more than her birth country?

You may disagree, but I think not, she would only have been a young teenager when she started out at this sport.

Project 0812 names beneficiaries of $7 million funding for Beijing 2008 & London 2012

January 24, 2007 – Singapore National Olympic Council has announced the initial beneficiaries of its new $7 million funding program for elite athletes looking to medal at the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012. Through the new Project 0812 funding program, the 22 athletes from sailing, shooting, table tennis and badminton will be able to concentrate full-time on training for the Olympics.

Project 0812 plainly states the aspirations of the athletes chosen for the program: win medals and national glory for Singapore.

 Excerpt from Project 0812 names beneficiaries of $7 million funding for Beijing 2008 & London 2012

Feng was not one of the named beneficiaries out of the 22 athletes in the above news release from the Singapore National Olympic Council back then.

She may have been dazzled when she first started playing under the Singapore National Flag, at the staggering monetary rewards that lay before her, should she succeed.

But can you honestly fault her? Wouldn’t you want to be, literally, in her shoes? To come from a poor background, realise your passion and see before you a chance to have a shot at a better life?

Everyone has wants and needs, and all strive for a better future, from every corner of the world. Especially so right here in Singapore, where we base, rightly or so, on the ideals of meritocracy.

Feng may not be home grown talent but she is a Singapore citizen now. She has won glory, National Glory and glory for herself.

Photo courtesy Reuters