They overcame the odds as a family to create history for Singapore

Colin, May and Joseph Schooling were crowned The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 for creating Olympic history for Singapore.
Colin and May Schooling with The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 award and an Olympic picture of Joseph during the award ceremony yesterday. Guests were told to come in festive dress, since the event was held during the Chinese New Year pe
Colin and May Schooling with The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 award and an Olympic picture of Joseph during the award ceremony yesterday. Guests were told to come in festive dress, since the event was held during the Chinese New Year period.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 award has gone to the Schooling family.

Colin, May and Joseph Schooling yesterday beat 11 other contenders to the award, which is into its second run. Other finalists included social workers, entrepreneurs and good Samaritans.

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.

At the Rio Olympics last year, Joseph became the first Singaporean to win an Olympic gold medal when he beat American swimming legend Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly and set an Olympic record.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented May, 61, and Colin, 69, with the Singaporean of the Year trophy at a ceremony at the UBS Business University Asia-Pacific.

Joseph, 21, was unable to attend due to school and training commitments in the United States. The family also won a $20,000 cash prize. The other finalists each received $5,000 from sponsor UBS.

The judges noted how Joseph's parents had staunchly supported his aspirations, rallying together as a family to overcome the odds. They spent more than $1 million on his education and training, and the family lived apart for years.

 

Speaking after receiving the award, May encouraged other Singaporean parents to support their children's aspirations.

"As parents, (we should) allow them to find their way and guide them, but never force them. And then they will do better," she said.

DPM Tharman said all the finalists are "examples of Singaporeans whose character and personal efforts make us a country with a bigger spirit. They inspire everyone to do the same. In every walk of life, we can each find our own ways to contribute to this bigger spirit. These things catch on".

Their win was decided by a 15-judge panel, which took into account public votes.

The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who chaired the panel, said: "We had a difficult choice as all 12 finalists were strong contenders, worthy of winning the award. They inspired us, and made us proud to have them as fellow Singaporeans.

"In the end, it was the way Joseph's Olympic win brought together the entire nation, in an unforgettable moment which lifted the sights and spirits of every Singaporean, that clinched it."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'They overcame the odds as a family to create history for Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe