After Ronald Susilo's victory over Lin Dan at the Athens Olympics, coming not long after his defeat of another top-notch Chinese shuttler, Bao Chunlai, at the Japan Open 2004, I have said I'm convinced that small countries like Singapore can make it to the top in selective sports if all concerned put their minds and souls into it.

In our Parliament yesterday, the Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Mr Vivian Balakrishnan, in reply to a request to the government to continue to support Singapore sports, emphasized: "For a long while, we said we can't do it, we're there for the experience" (Singaporean used to think that our athletes can never match the best in the world). "They (Ronald, Jiawei and paddler, Zhang) showed we have a chance and breaking that (pyschological) barrier is perhaps their most important contribution." To add to this is the fact that Jiawei's performance has brought the different races in Singapore together to cheer and support her in her quest for the Olympic medal.

I now reproduce the Straits Times report for your information:


SEPT 2, 2004
Olympics: Heroes show Singapore can do it
By G. Sivakkumaran

THEY may not have won medals, but the valiant performances of Li Jiawei, Ronald Susilo and Zhang Xueling at the Athens Olympics helped Singaporeans overcome a major psychological barrier, Parliament heard yesterday.


Li reached the semi- finals of the women's singles table tennis at the Games, while her fiance, badminton player Susilo, and table tennis player Zhang lost in the quarter-finals.

As Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan pointed out: 'For a long while, we said we can't do it, we're there for the experience. They showed we have a chance and breaking that barrier is perhaps their most important contribution.'

Their feats brought Singapore together, he added, saying: 'Jiawei said she looked up into the stand and saw Singaporeans - Indians, Malays and Chinese - collectively cheering her on.'

Replying to remarks by Nominated MP Ng Ser Miang, who urged the Government to continue funding the pursuit of sporting excellence, Dr Balakrishnan assured the House that his ministry would do just that.

The $500 million over five years that the Government pledged for sports may be due to run out next year, but Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry would start negotiations with the Ministry of Finance and Singapore Pools to replenish the funds.

Mr Ng, a member of the International Olympic Committee and vice-president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, also suggested, when speaking on the issue of supporting sports excellence in Singapore, that there be two more tiers of funding for selected national sports associations (NSAs).

One would be for sports like bowling, sailing and body-building, which are successful at the Asian Games level, and another for the likes of table tennis and badminton, which can aim for an Olympic medal.

Raising a longstanding call of local sports, he urged Temasek-linked companies to help sports, just as corporate giants like Samsung and LG do at home in South Korea.

'The NSAs and our top athletes need greater support,' he pleaded.

Urging Singapore to aim big, he also asked for the new sports hub in Kallang to be designed with a view to hosting the Asian Games in the future.

But Dr Balakrishnan said it was not only about giving money, but also about scrutinising the needs of the NSAs and their athletes.

'We need to focus on areas and in sports where we have already done well or have a good chance of doing well,' he said.

Given the people and resources, he said, sports in Singapore can show that 'being small is compatible with having big dreams and high hopes'.