SINGAPORE - Despite being diagnosed with colon and liver cancer in 2013, Ms Zhu Xiaoping continued to coach Singapore's gymnasts up until last year's SEA Games at the expense of her own health.
For her selfless dedication, Ms Zhu will be one of two recipients of a special award at the Singapore Sports Awards on June 23, the awards' selection committee revealed on Friday (June 17) morning.
The other recipient is marathoner Ashley Liew, whose act of sportsmanship at last year's SEA Games drew plaudits on social media. Upon realising that the lead pack of runners had missed a U-turn as it was dark, Liew gave up his 50m lead over the pack by slowing down to allow them to catch up.
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development and president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, visited Ms Zhu at her home on Friday (June 17) morning and praised her for her dedication.
He said: "In the pursuit of sports excellence, it is often our athletes and not the people behind the scenes, in the limelight. Coach Zhu Xiaoping put her athletes and Singapore Gymnastics' interests above her own health and served selflessly to help them prepare for the 28th SEA Games.
"Her dedication to sport is admirable."
Her illness took a huge toll on her ability to coach, allowing her to work only five months in 2014, according to Singapore Gymnastics general manager Janssen Ong.
"We never doubted her commitment and her will to sacrifice for the team," said Mr Ong. "Despite her condition, we knew she still wanted to coach, and we allowed her to do so in accordance to her doctor's advice."
Ms Zhu's sacrifice paid off when the team won the gold medal in the group all-around event at last year's SEA Games - the Republic's first gold in the group all-around event, and the first medal won by the nation's rhythmic gymnasts at a major event.
After suffering a relapse recently, she will be undergoing further treatment beginning on June 27.