SINGAPORE - Local swim stars Joseph Schooling and Tao Li were crowned the male and female Athlete of the Year (swimming) respectively at the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) awards and appreciation night at Shangri-La Hotel on Saturday.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu presented the awards to the winners in front of 420 guests.
She lauded the achievements of the aquatic fraternity across four disciplines - swimming, water polo, synchronised swimming and diving - who collectively won 26 out of the Republic's record haul of 84 golds at last year's SEA Games.
Ms Fu said: "Beyond medals won, you have inspired many Singaporeans... You have truly become our sporting heroes. We rejoice in your achievements and we share the happiness you feel in giving our country so much pride."
Of the vision to push for greater success, SSA president Lee Kok Choy said: "We've put in place five-year plans for each discipline and high performance pathways. For all our aquatic disciplines, we aim to be the top four in Asia as well as making a strong push towards the 2020 Olympic Games.
"As part of our vision to make 'every Singaporean a swimmer', we will work closely with ActiveSG to create opportunities for Singaporeans to learn and experience aquatic sports."
Schooling, 20, won all nine of his events at the SEA Games last year. But he hit another milestone at the Fina World Swimming Championships last August, when he clinched a bronze in the 100m butterfly, Singapore's first-ever medal at the elite biennial championships.
Tao, 26, also finished as the Republic's top female swimmer at the SEA Games by winning five golds (four individual golds and one relay) in all the events she had entered. She has won the 100m backstroke and the 4X100 medley relay in every edition of the SEA Games since 2005.
The Straits Times sports journalist Chua Siang Yee won the Story of the Year award for his piece 'Yeo shrugs off pain to compete'. The story is about Malaysian para swimmer and bone cancer survivor Yeo Yi Lin, who battled dizziness and double vision to compete at the Asean Para Games last December.
Lee Kai Yang and goalkeeper Eunice Karina Fu won the male and female Athlete of the Year for water polo, while SEA Games 10m platform bronze medallist Freida Lim won the accolade for diving and Crystal Yap and Stephanie Chen bagged the award for synchronised swimming.