SINGAPORE: A family that has produced several national water polo players has donated S$500,000 to help fellow athletes, the Singapore Olympic Foundation said on Sunday (Mar 21).
Spearheaded by Olympian Tan Eng Liang, the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Tan Family Water Polo Fund will "develop young athletes and groom elite players, so as to establish Singapore as an Asian power”, the foundation said.
The fund was launched on Sunday at Our Tampines Hub with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.
“Although I only had a S$200 bursary in university, it helped me to pay the bus fare. Whatever amount you get as a national athlete is a lot, so (the fund) is just our family’s small way of supporting water polo,” said Dr Tan, who was Singapore's first Rhodes scholar.
“Water polo brought me to the Olympics, and I benefited not only in flying the Singapore colours, but attaining other achievements while playing for the country.
“Water polo was a life changer for me. Without water polo and academics, I would not have gotten the chance to (be awarded the) scholarship. I’m grateful for the sport.”
The donation is eligible for one-to-one matching by the Government under the One Team Singapore Fund, the Singapore Olympic Foundation said.
Mr Tong said: “The contributions made by Dr Tan Eng Liang and his family over the years to water polo and the sporting fraternity in Singapore have been significant and extensive.
"This new fund will support promising and high performing water polo athletes, and help them achieve their sporting aspirations."
International Olympic Committee vice-president Ng Ser Miang added: "The fund is an incredible way for Dr Tan Eng Liang and his family to play a key role in developing water polo in Singapore and continue his family’s legacy – as they have been doing for decades."
Dr Tan, along with brothers Tan Eng Bock and Tan Eng Chai, as well as uncle Tan Hwee Hock, took home a gold medal at the 1954 Asian Games. They later represented the country at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, which remains the only time Singapore has qualified for water polo at the Olympics.
They were also responsible for Singapore claiming its first water polo gold medal at the 1965 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, sparking a 54-year winning streak that lasted until 2019.
Mr Tan Eng Bock’s sons, Mark and Matthew, also represented Singapore, with the latter becoming the national team captain in 1983 and winning 10 consecutive SEA Games gold medals.
Mr Tan Hwee Hock, Mr Tan Eng Chai and Mr Tan Eng Bock all died in 2020 and early 2021. Dr Tan was "was keen to build on their legacies and enhance the support and development of the sport", said the foundation.
“Let us rebuild, and in the immediate term push and continue to make water polo the pride and joy of Singapore,” he said. “If you look at all the team sports in Singapore, none has a more glorious history than water polo.”
The fund will be administered by the Singapore Olympic Foundation through bursaries, scholarships and various programmes. It will aim to enable young water polo athletes to "achieve their goals", support high-performing water polo players to represent the nation, and to promote a healthy environment for the progress of the sport in Singapore.