SINGAPORE - National swimmer Joseph Schooling won the Sportsman of the Year for the second consecutive year at the Singapore Sports Awards on Thursday night.
It was his third top accolade; he was the youngest winner of the award in 2012 at 17.
The butterfly specialist edged out fellow nominees Colin Cheng (sailing), Gao Ning (table tennis) and Mervyn Toh (canoeing).
The 21-year-old swimmer could not be present at at the Raffles City Convention Centre as he is currently training in the United States with the national swimming squad to prepare for August's Olympic Games.
Schooling said: "I just want to say what an honour it is to win this award. I want to thank my family and my friends and everyone who's been there with us on this tough journey.
"I wish I could be there to celebrate this time with you all."
Schooling was honoured for another stellar 2015, which saw the Singaporean win the country's first-ever medal - a bronze in the 100m butterfly - at the World Championships.
Preceding that historic feat was a perfect nine-gold showing at the SEA Games, winning all the events he had entered.
The award was presented to Schooling's father, Colin, by Minister for Social and Family Development and Singapore National Olympic Council president, Tan Chuan-Jin and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu.
Mr Tan, who chaired the selection committee of the eight main awards, urged Singaporeans to support Schooling and other Olympic-bound athletes in his speech.
He said: "Swimmer Joseph Schooling continues to awe many others with his exploits in the water. In 42 days' time, more than 20 athletes will be flying our flag high at the upcoming Olympic Games, so please join me in supporting their endeavours and cheer them on as they represent Singapore in Rio de Janeiro."
Bowler Shayna Ng won the Sportswoman of the Year and was also lauded for her history-making feat last year.
Last December, she won the All Events title at the prestigious Women's World Bowling Championships, clinching the gold by topping a 147-strong field by a single pinfall.
With her win, she also became the first bowler to be a multiple winner of the award since three-time winner Grace Yong (1990, 1992-1993).
Over 700 of Singapore's finest athletes and guests attended the star-studded event.
But missing from the guest list was rising star and latest recipient of the Sportsboy of the Year award, which went to swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, 19. Bowler Joey Yeo, 18, picked up the Sportsgirl of the Year award.
Quah became the nation's most bemedalled athlete at the SEA Games when he won 12 medals in the pool. Yeo won the women's title at the World Bowling Open last July.
Achievements aside, the local sports fraternity gathered in coats, ties, dresses and gowns, to toast the contributions and sportsmanship of individuals.
Marathoner Ashley Liew and gymnastics coach Zhu Xiaoping won the hearts of Singaporeans and they were honoured with special awards for sportsmanship and fortitude respectively.
Liew was lauded for the sportsmanship he showed at last year's SEA Games when he slowed down after realising that his competitors had missed a U-turn in the men's 42km race.
But the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for national rhythmic gymnastics coach Zhu as she went on stage to receive the final award at the dinner.
"Zhu lao shi" (meaning teacher in Mandarin), as the Jiangxi native is affectionately called by her charges, battled cancer while continuing to coach the rhythmic gymnastics team, who eventually won Singapore's first gold medal in the discipline.
Zhu, 56, was also shortlisted for the Coach of the Year award.
The Straits Times also picked up an award for Most Inspiring Sports Story of the Year, the paper's third recognition since its inception in 2012.
Sports columnist Rohit Brijnath's story in the Nov 22 edition of The Sunday Times titled "On his travels, patience is the greatest weapon" tells the story of para-athlete Eric Ting, a wheelchair table tennis player who participated in last year's Asean Para Games.
For the article, Brijnath travelled with Ting, a Paralympian, on MRT trains, seeking to understand the hurdles the wheelchair-bound racer-turned-paddler faced while training for the APG.