Singapore's contract bridge men's team to receive S$320,000 award for historic Asian Games gold

Singapore's contract bridge men's team to receive S$320,000 award for historic Asian Games gold

Team Singapore contract bridge Asian Games final 3
The team beat Hong Kong 107-52 in the finals. (Photo: Facebook / Team Singapore)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's contract bridge men's team are set to receive a cash award of S$320,000 after winning the gold medal at the Asian Games on Monday (Aug 27). 

The award comes under the Singapore National Olympic Council's (SNOC) Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), which is sponsored by the Tote Board and Singapore Pools.   

Of the S$320,000, 20 per cent will go to the sport's governing body, the Singapore Contract Bridge Association, for future training and development. This is a requirement set out in the cash incentive programme.

The six team members - Poon Hua, Loo Choon Chou, Zhang Yukun, Fong Kien Hoong, Desmond Oh and Kelvin Ong - will stand to pocket more than S$40,000 each before tax.

READ: 'Is this useful for going to casinos?' The Singapore team bidding for success at the Asian Games

The incentive scheme, devised by the SNOC in the 1990s, rewards athletes based on the medals won, the type of events and the Games they took part in.

In the case of the Asian Games contract bridge men's team, it is categorised as a team event, SNOC confirmed in response to Channel NewsAsia's queries. Under this category for the Asian Games, the cash award is S$320,000 for a gold, S$160,000 for a silver and S$80,000 for a bronze.

The Singapore team created sporting history in Jakarta as contract bridge is being featured at the Asian Games for the first time. 

They led from start to finish in the finals, and won against Hong Kong 107-52. 

'NATIONAL GLORY MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY' 

Commenting on the prize money, Poon said it is not what drives them to ace the competition. 

"It is definitely a happy thing for all of us. It is kind of a reward for all the efforts that we have put in over the last year or two.

"But at the same time, we also realise that money is not the main thing that is driving us to win this tournament. For us national glory is more important than the money we get," added Poon, who along with Loo, are the only two professional contract bridge players in the team. 

Meanwhile, Zhang said that the money goes some way towards making up for their past expenses in pursuing the sport. For instance, participating at the world championships would cost each of them up to S$5,000 including airfare, accommodation and the tournament entry fee, he said. 

"This is the first or second time we got some monetary reward after playing well in a bridge tournament," said Zhang. 

"For most of the earlier bridge tournaments we pay it up ourselves. So I think this S$40,000 covers that amount, and (allows us to save) for future tournaments as well." 

Contract bridge lacks popularity in Singapore and the team has to fund itself, Oh pointed out. 

"We do not have sponsors, all of it is driven by passion towards the game. Over the years, our drive is being fuelled by our love for the card game," he said.

Get the widest coverage of the 18th Asian Games (Aug 18 – Sep 2) from Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia on Mediacorp. Go to toggle.sg/AsianGames2018 for details.

Source: CNA/ng/(gs)

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