Singapore Sports Awards

A series of firsts for Singapore's finest

Sportsman of the Year Joseph Schooling being congratulated by Singapore shooter Jasmine Ser after collecting his award. It is the third straight year he has won the accolade.
Sportsman of the Year Joseph Schooling being congratulated by Singapore shooter Jasmine Ser after collecting his award. It is the third straight year he has won the accolade.PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Schooling wins Sportsman of the Year for 4th time in front of fellow Olympic medallists

The Singapore Sports Awards has been an annual fixture on the local sports calendar for the past 49 years, but yesterday's ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia was like none before.

This is the first time that all five of Singapore's Olympic medallists - swimming champion Joseph Schooling, Tan Howe Liang (weightlifting silver, Rome 1960), Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu (table tennis team silver in Beijing 2008 and bronze in London 2012) as well as Feng Tianwei (three table tennis medals, Beijing 2008 and London 2012) - were gathered together.

They were among the past and present Singapore Olympians invited for the awards night, which also doubled up as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

Schooling also set another "first" at the awards - the first athlete to win the Sportsman of the Year award four times. The Olympic 100m butterfly gold medallist won the prestigious award for the third consecutive year, pipping 2014 winner, billiards player Peter Gilchrist, and silat world champion Shakir Juanda.

The 22-year-old had also won the award in 2012.

Li and former swim queen Patricia Chan hold the longest winning streaks at the awards, each with five straight Sportswoman of the Year titles (Li from 2002-2006 and Chan from 1968-1972).

Last night was also the first time Schooling was present to receive the award, having previously been away in the United States, where he is based.

For the first time, all five of Singapore's Olympic medallists - (clockwise from top left) paddler Li Jiawei, swimmer Joseph Schooling, paddlers Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei and weightlifter Tan Howe Liang - were in attendance at the annual Singapore
They put Singapore on the Olympics map: For the first time, all five of Singapore's Olympic medallists - (clockwise from top left) paddler Li Jiawei, swimmer Joseph Schooling, paddlers Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei and weightlifter Tan Howe Liang - were in attendance at the annual Singapore Sports Awards at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia last night. The quintet were among the Olympians invited for the ceremony, which also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Singapore National Olympic Council. Schooling clinched his third straight Sportsman of the Year for his gold medal at last year's Rio Olympics, while bowler New Hui Fen won the Sportswoman of the Year. The Straits Times assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath also won the Most Inspirational Story of the Year award for his commentary, "No big deal? Such sporting deeds deserve retelling", on young footballer Jonathan Chua's turning down a penalty claim during a Schools National quarter-final match. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

"It definitely feels a lot more different from being on Skype, the emotions are heightened," he said.

"It's always a great feeling, this is the first time I'm here in person and that made it that much more special."

Bowler New Hui Fen was named Sportswoman of the Year for bagging a silver medal at the World Bowling Singles Championships. She edged out Feng, silat exponent Nurul Suhaila Mohd Saiful and shooter Jasmine Ser.

When asked how surprised she was to win, the 25-year-old replied: "On a scale of one to 10, maybe 11.

"I'm just very grateful for this award because my parents have really supported me through all my ups and downs and always told me not to give up. It's very hard to be on (the women's national bowling team) where everyone is so talented and so competitive, so when the chance comes, I just take it - that's how 2016 was for me."

Silat world champion Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin took the Sportsboy of the Year honours, while fencer Lau Ywen, South-east Asia's first champion at the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships, was Sportsgirl of the Year. She is the first fencer to win a main award at the event.

Sheik Farhan said that winning the award provided extra motivation for him to perform better and contribute to silat's five-gold SEA Games target later this month.

"It's good for my teammates and good for silat, because people can see that if we work hard, we can receive rewards like this," said the 19-year-old.

The SNOC celebrated its 70th anniversary with a new book, titled Rings of Stars and Crescent, which charts the past seven decades of Singapore's sporting achievements, with the spotlight on the officials behind the scenes.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, who is also patron of the SNOC, attended the event as guest of honour.

Also present were Minister for Social and Family Development and SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

Correction Note: An earlier version said Joseph Schooling was the first male athlete to win the Sportsman of the Year three years in a row. This is incorrect. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'A series of firsts for Singapore's finest'. Print Edition | Subscribe