PICTURES

ST Athlete of the Year: Four who shine the brightest

EIGHT world crowns, four Asian champions, two Olympic medals, two Paralympic medals and the right to be called kings of Asean.

Last year will go down as arguably the greatest in Singapore’s sporting history. For details, click here.

From 15-year-old Yukie Yokoyama winning the team and individual titles at the Optimist World Championships, to 42-year-old Aleksandar Duric winning the Asean Football Federation Cup with the Lions, the national flag was raised, on average, at least once a month in honour of a Singapore champion.

In fact, at The Straits Times sports desk, there was hardly a dull moment in 2012.

Yet while the bumper crop of champions made for interesting stories, it also made our task harder when it came to deciding the nominees for The Straits Times Athlete of the Year Award for 2012.

All of us at the desk were free to choose our top picks.

The heroic displays of table tennis player Feng Tianwei and equestrian Laurentia Tan at the Olympics and Paralympics - both were double medallists - made them easy choices. In their sport, the stage just does not get any bigger.

But strong cases were also made for those who did not make the podium. The efforts of gymnast Lim Heem Wei and canoeist Geraldine Lee (both became the first Singaporeans in their sport to qualify for the Olympics) did not go unnoticed. But in the end, there was room only for four.

Although the young world beaters from wushu and sailing did their nation proud, they lost out as their accomplishments came at the youth level.

It was a tough fight between silat world champion Muhammad Shakir Juanda and world champion bowler Shayna Ng. But given that bowling is a more universal sport than silat, we felt Ng’s feat was the more difficult to achieve.

And while the Asean football crown is a regional title, it was impossible to ignore the year that Shahril Ishak had. For consistency, he had few equals.

As captain of the LionsXII, his goals helped bring the Malaysia Cup fever back to Singapore after 17 years. As skipper of the national team, he led the Lions to a record fourth AFF Cup.

Selecting the winner will be an even more tricky task. Fortunately, an expert panel of seasoned sports officials and athletes will help us pick a worthy champion.

To salute the final four, The Straits Times, in partnership with award sponsor 100Plus, will profile each nominee in the Sport pages from next week.

So who will be crowned the ST Athlete of the Year for 2012?

All will be revealed on Feb 26.

marclim@sph.com.sg

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