Canoeing in contention

Singapore canoeist Mervyn Toh competing in the SEA Games men's K1 200m race last year, winning a gold medal in the event. He has been nominated for the Sportsman of the Year in this year's Singapore Sports Awards.
Singapore canoeist Mervyn Toh competing in the SEA Games men's K1 200m race last year, winning a gold medal in the event. He has been nominated for the Sportsman of the Year in this year's Singapore Sports Awards.ST FILE PHOTO

Nominations in three major Singapore Sports Awards categories after stellar SEA Games

In recognition of its record gold haul at last year's SEA Games, canoeing has made the list of nominees for the three major Singapore Sports Awards categories for the first time.

Mervyn Toh has been nominated for the Sportsman of the Year, while Stephenie Chen is shortlisted for Sportswoman of the Year.

They find themselves in the company of the Republic's elite athletes. Of the eight nominees for these two awards, five of them have qualified for the Olympic Games, and five were past award winners.

National head coach Balazs Babella is also in the running for Coach of the Year, an accolade which he had won in 2014.

The 37-year-old Hungarian said: "I'm proud of them. When I won the award, I had mentioned that I wanted to have my athletes join me."

Currently in the Czech Republic competing at the Canoe Sprint World Cup series, Chen, 25, said: "The other names (in the list) are all great sports people. This is not a small award and we're honoured to be nominated.

"We've come a long way. Beyond the recognition, it's also a reminder of how much more work we have to put in."

Toh, 24, added: "To be shortlisted is already a recognition. Yet it's also humbling to be in the same list as those whose achievements are much greater than ours.

"Last year was a good year for us when we compare within ourselves. But if you compare with other sports, we're nowhere near them."

The Republic's canoeists established themselves as one of the region's powerhouses after bagging seven golds at the SEA Games on home soil last June.

Toh was the K1 200m gold medallist, while Chen was the K1 500m and K2 500m champion.

They took their fine form into the Asian Championships in November, where they snapped a 12-year barren run at the continental meet. Toh and Chen, along with team-mate Lim Yuan Yin, clinched three bronzes in Palembang.

Said Babella: "Last year was by far the most successful year we've had in the sport. What we've achieved was beyond our expectations.

"Our achievements cannot be compared to other sports. But I believe they (the selection committee) appreciate and recognise the hard work we've put in. They know how difficult it is and they could see the potential in us."

The 11 awards will be given out at a ceremony on June 23. Eight of them were finalised by Singapore National Olympic Council, while the finalists for three awards (Best Sports Event of the Year for both local and international categories, and Most Inspiring Sports Story of the Year) were judged by Sport Singapore.

Dr Tan Eng Liang, chairperson of the awards' organising committee, said: "(Last year) was a banner year for Singapore sports. We are proud of what our athletes have achieved and look forward to recognise them at the Singapore Sports Awards presentation ceremony."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Canoeing in contention'. Print Edition | Subscribe