Singapore Sports Awards 2016

Awards nice but not time to celebrate

Sportsman of the Year Schooling (left) and Sportsboy Quah say their focus is on Olympic preparations.
Sportsman of the Year Schooling (left) and Sportsboy Quah say their focus is on Olympic preparations.PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIANHE ZAOBAO
Joseph Schooling sets a new games record of 48.58s at the Men's 100m freestyle on Day Two at the 28th SEA Games swimming meet.
Joseph Schooling sets a new games record of 48.58s at the Men's 100m freestyle on Day Two at the 28th SEA Games swimming meet.PHOTO: ST FILE

Sportsman of the Year Schooling, Sportsboy Quah say focus is on Olympic preparations

He won the Singapore's first swimming medal at both the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and at the World Championships last year.

Just like his feats, the accolades keep piling up for Joseph Schooling. The 21-year-old swimmer became the first back-to-back winner of the Sportsman of the Year award yesterday since bodybuilder Azman Abdullah achieved that double in 1993 and 1994.

Former national table tennis player Li Jiawei and former swim queen Patricia Chan currently hold the longest winning streaks at the Singapore Sports Awards, earning the Sportswoman of the Year title for five successive years (Li from 2002 to 2006 and Chan from 1968-1972).

Last night, at local sports' equivalent of the Oscars, there were signs pointing to a return of a dominant winner at the Singapore Sports Awards held at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

On what is shaping up to be a big year for Schooling with the Olympics 42 days away, the butterfly specialist collected his latest crown last night, even though he was almost 17,000km away in the United States preparing for the Rio Games.

 
 

He edged out fellow nominees Colin Cheng (sailing), Gao Ning (table tennis) and Mervyn Toh (canoeing) to win his third top honour.

TOP PRIORITY

These awards, they're really pretty but they are not foremost on our minds. Our ultimate goal for all athletes is to go perform on the world level like the Olympics.

QUAH ZHENG WEN, Sportsboy of the Year.

Schooling was recognised for an outstanding 2015, which saw him win a historic bronze medal for the nation at the World Championships, preceded by a clean sweep of nine gold medals - in nine meet records - at the SEA Games.

While he was delighted with his increasing collection of accolades, Schooling knows that what matters for now is a crowning achievement at the Brazil Olympics. So for now, any plans for celebration can wait until after the Aug 5-21 Games.

It was left to Schooling's father, Colin, who received the award on his son's behalf, to celebrate the award with Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy after the event.

In a phone interview from Florida last night, the swimmer said: "No we can't celebrate right now.

"We've got a bigger task at hand.

"I've got training later and dry (training). We (train) this summer and then when everything (is over), we can celebrate and then celebrate all we want.

"I'm happy to win the award and I'll be happy to win an (Olympic) medal."

His team-mate and fellow Rio-bound swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, 19, joined Schooling on the honour roll when he picked up the Sportsboy of the Year award.

Quah, the most bemedalled athlete at last year's SEA Games following a 12-medal haul in the pool, agreed that right now, the team are fully focused on preparing for Rio.

He said: "Yes, these awards, they're really pretty but they are not foremost on our minds. Our ultimate goal for all athletes is to go perform on the world level like the Olympics."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Awards nice but not time to celebrate'. Print Edition | Subscribe