Straits Times: Relay team seek $200k backing

Quartet need funds to defray living, training expenses in world c’ships bid

Sports | Updated today at 01:55 AM
By Terrence Voon Sports Correspondent

SPONSORSHIP fuels sport, and nobody understands that better than Gary Yeo.

The Olympic sprinter and his 4x100m relay team-mates are dreaming of becoming the first Singapore relay team to qualify for the world championships.

But they need to shave 0.38 of a second off their best time. And they need $200,000 in cash to help them pay for their travel, housing and living expenses.

The team, who include Calvin Kang, Lee Cheng Wei and Muhammad Amirudin Jamal, are willing to train full-time for at least six months. Their ideal destination is Florida, an athletics hothouse which has produced the likes of Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin.

But unless they can find the money soon, the 2011 SEA Games silver medallists – who are all undergraduates – will have to make do with training in Singapore, or in nearby countries.

“We have budget issues,” Yeo told The Straits Times yesterday. “It will be difficult to raise the money, but we haven’t given up hope.”

The Singapore sprinters set a national record of 39.58sec at the Asian Grand Prix in May. They need to clock 39.2 to qualify for the Moscow world championships next August.

Said Kang: “It’s a realistic target, and we hope to win a gold medal at the 2013 SEA Games.”

Meanwhile, the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) is working out alternative plans for the relay squad, including shorter overseas stints and more competitions.

“We have limited funding which is spread across all events,” said the SAA’s acting general manager James Wong.

“Sponsorship for sports is very difficult to come by, especially in cash.”

But there are signs that more companies are warming up to the idea.

Yeo, along with Geraldine Lee (canoeing), Lim Heem Wei (gymnastics), Joseph Schooling (swimming), Jasmine Ser (shooting), Tao Li (swimming) and Derek Wong (badminton), were handed a total of $144,000 in grants yesterday.

The cash comes from the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Partner Athlete programme, which pairs promising athletes with sponsors. This year’s amount was more than three times higher than the $44,000 given out in 2009, when Canon was the only sponsor.

SingTel and Samsung were added to the programme this year, and each athlete received between $7,000 and $28,000.

Speaking at yesterday’s ceremony, International Olympic Committee vice-president Ng Ser Miang said sports partnerships are win-win for both athletes and companies.

“As partners of the sponsors, the athletes help to project the brand they work with,” he added. “The sponsors, on their part, help to project the image of the athlete and their sport.”

tvoon@sph.com.sg

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