SINGAPORE - Swimmer Joseph Schooling's habit of making history continued on Thursday (Feb 16) when he became the first athlete to receive The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award for a second time.
Schooling, who received the award in 2015, topped a field that included Yip Pin Xiu (swimming), Peter Gilchrist (billiards), New Hui Fen (bowling) and Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin (silat).
His parents, Colin and May Schooling, received the trophy on his behalf from guest of honour Grace Fu, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at a ceremony attended by 150 people at One Farrer Hotel and Spa.
Joseph, 21, who won Singapore's first Olympic gold medal at the Olympics last year, joined the ceremony via a live Skype feed as he is attending university in the United States. The award is in its ninth edition and is backed by isotonic drink 100Plus.
Joseph, who set an Olympic record of 50.39 seconds when he took the gold in the 100 m butterfly, said: "I'm very fortunate to win this award, I couldn't have done it without my parents, close friends and support group.
"Thank you for sticking with me through thick and thin."
In her speech, Ms Fu noted that 2016 was an extraordinary year for sport in Singapore, saying: "We witnessed the power of sport in inspiring and rallying the entire nation. Singaporeans from all walks of life came together to cheer on our Team Singapore athletes and celebrated our nation's sporting achievements with immense pride."
Quoting former world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, she added: " A champion is someone who gets up when he can't. All the nominees today are champions who have fought hard even when the odds were against them."
Past ST Athletes of the Year include swimmer Tao Li (2008), badminton player Fu Ming Tian (2011) and Yip (2015).
ST sports editor Lee Yulin, who headed the 2016 award's nine-member judging panel, said: "While this is a very strong cohort of nominees, Joseph was the obvious choice.
"His Olympic gold medal is a major breakthrough for Singapore's sporting landscape, for it shows that someone born and bred here can become a winner at sport's highest level.
"He has inspired thousands of Singaporeans, young and old, to believe in and pursue their dreams and we at ST believe that is why he deserves to be named the ST Athlete of the Year."
Ms Jennifer See, general manager of F&N Foods Pte Ltd, said: "The five nominees have all exhibited strong physical and emotional endurance to attain the pinnacle of sports excellence.
"We are delighted to be here today to celebrate their success and will continue to do our part in nurturing the next generation of athletes in Singapore through our various initiatives."