SINGAPORE - The Schooling family has been named The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016.
Colin, May and Joseph Schooling - aged 69, 61 and 21 respectively - beat 11 other contenders to the award, which is in its second run.
Supported by bank UBS Singapore, the award seeks to recognise Singaporeans who have put the country on the world map, persevered through great adversity or made Singapore a better place through selfless acts last year (2016).
Their win was decided after a public vote and deliberation by a 15-judge panel.
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented May and Colin Schooling with the Singaporean of the Year trophy and a $20,000 cash prize during a ceremony at the UBS Business University on Monday (Feb 6).
In a video message, Joseph Schooling, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to school and training commitments in the United States, thanked Singaporeans for their support and congratulated his fellow award nominees.
“However, I feel that the two people most deserving of this award are my parents. I was the one that raced and won the Olympic medal, but without their help, their unwavering love, their contributions, I would not be where I am today.”
Since he was around six or seven years old, his parents had staunchly backed their only child’s dream of becoming an Olympic champion, shouldering burdens both mental and financial to support him.
This included making the difficult decision of sending him to US college preparatory institution Bolles School to train when he was just 14, and spending more than $1 million to pay for his education and training, with the sum partially funded through loans.
They also lobbied for three years to get him a deferment from national service in 2013 to prepare for the Rio Olympics.
Last year (2016), the David and Goliath tale of how Joseph Schooling had defeated Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, to bring home Singapore’s first Olympic gold brought a nation together and inspired younger Singaporeans to reach for their dreams.
The other finalists for Singaporean of the Year award include security officer Peter Lim Kok Seng, 55, social worker Sudha Nair, 59 and social entrepreneur Jabez Tan, 42.
They each received $5,000 from sponsor UBS.