Success of Joseph Schooling and lack of support to families behind athletes, should spur reconsideration of foreign sports talent scheme

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Interview with Joseph Schooling’s mother

I refer to the article “Lunch With Sumiko: May Schooling, Singapore’s most famous mum” (Straits Times, Mar 6).

Scholarship?

The article on the interview writes:

“She recalls how the mother of a swimmer once asked how her child could get the “scholarship” Joseph got.

“We said, ‘What scholarship? This is a papa-mama scholarship’.”

It’s been said they spent $1 million on Joseph’s Olympic dream.

I ask if the figure is accurate.

She says his school and swimming fees, housing and airfare for the family travelling up and down would have been about US$100,000 (S$140,000) a year.

It’s been eight years.

“Always looking for money somewhere or other”

“I haven’t done the maths yet, okay? All I know is that I’m always looking for money somewhere or other. But Joseph was quite lucky in the sense that things fell into place. When we needed the money, the money came. That’s why I say God guided him along the way.”

“Things just came along, not much, but enough… you struggle along.”

She says she has been asked why Joseph’s studies and training aren’t being fully funded by the Government.

There was a house in Perth, Australia, that they sold, and an endowment policy that matured.

“You struggle along”

“Things just came along, not much, but enough… you struggle along.”

“I was told, ‘Why you so stupid? If Singapore wants your son to swim for them, they should pay.’ I said, ‘Tan ku ku’ (a Hokkien phrase for “it won’t happen”).”

Some questions?

As I read the above – some questions came to my mind.

Why didn’t the Government give more support to Joseph Schooling?

Why not disclose in detail the support that was given to him?

How much money have we spent in total all these years on the foreign talent sports scheme – which did not even produce a single gold for Singapore?

I understand that it may be in the hundreds of millions if not more than a billion.

If these money had been channelled to support Singaporean talent – how much more could we have achieved?

I believe this issue may not be confined to sports alone, but also in other areas.

Going forward – are we going to review and reconsider the foreign sports talent scheme?