Britain’s Olympic team has become an Olympic force since the introduction of Goverment funding in 1997 via UK Sport/Lottery sources.
This gave top athletes financial security and provided funding for the National Governing Bodies to ensure support personal and training facilities are available.
The British Sailing Team was a perfect example of this when in 2000 at Sydney, the first complete cycle with funding, they took 3 golds and 2 silver, and started a run of top Olympic positions.
It’s not that way for many other countries. In a recent Today On-Line magazine article, Griselda Khng tells her story. After finishing 15th in 2016 in Rio she aims to qualify for Tokyo 2020 representing Singapore.
For those that do not know my story, I have been sailing for 18 years and am training full-time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, having made my Olympic debut in Rio in 2016 with Sara Tan in the 49er FX class. We finished 15th, the top Asian performers.
Sara quit shortly after Rio to go back to studies, so what makes my 2020 dream different is that I have a new partner in Olivia Chen. Olivia took up the sport only in January 2017, having previously been a national netballer.
At the beginning of 2018, I had emptied my bank account to pay for flights, equipment, competition and coaching fees, reaching a point where I had to borrow money from Olivia, 23, to pay for my meals.
We have been mostly based in Perth, where the consistently strong sea breeze made for ideal training conditions. Getting a work holiday visa also allowed us to earn some income while training.
I coach sailing up to five times a week, earning on average about A$400 (S$388), which helps to cover daily expenses. Last January, we purchased a A$400 Ford that was over 30 years old and was falling apart, because that was all that we could afford.
The lack of finances was a persistent worry for us and we had to base our decisions on where to train and compete on a limited budget.
So one of our best moments was when DBS told us in April that it was supporting our mission towards Tokyo 2020.
My heart nearly stopped when I heard the news. Olivia was so happy she cried.
DBS’ six-figure cash sponsorship was a godsend and we are eternally grateful for the support. We used the money to buy second-hand hulls, masts and sails totaling about S$50,000, and for coaching fees (S$15,000).
The rest of the sponsorship money went towards covering our airfares, transport and accommodation costs. Yes, competitive sailing is not cheap, and can be a struggle for those without sponsorships.
My two years of sailing partnership (and counting) with Olivia almost already feel like a lifetime, as we have gone through a lot together.
Pain, joy, struggle, celebrating goals achieved, fatigue, exhilaration, devastation, kindness, stress – the list goes on.
My ultimate sailing goal for this year is simple:
Olivia and I will need to finish among the top 6 (excluding countries already qualified) at the 49erFX World Championship in Auckland at the end of this year (2019), where there will be stiff competition with at least 25 teams vying for those spots.
Yes, we still do need a new sponsor, having used up the money from DBS and no financial support from any other organisation.
But we are certainly in a better place now than in January, 2018.
Over the next 300-odd days, we want to have move away enough small stones to qualify for Tokyo 2020. The journey – involving eight regattas across seven countries, 35 flights, almost 6,500 km of driving – is exciting and scary at the same time.
I will use all the strength I have gained through various experiences, and fight tooth and nail to achieve my goal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Griselda Khng is a Singapore national sailor. She became the optimist class female world champion in 2006 at the age of 15 and has also won two SEA Games gold medals.