Justin Hui has many achievements to be proud of. Among them are scoring a winner for S-League club Hougang United last October and captaining Meridian Junior College to their fourth straight Schools A Division football title last May.
The 20-year-old added another to that list yesterday when he won the inaugural The Straits Times (ST) Young Athlete of the Year award. The prize, presented by F&N's 100Plus, honours student athletes for their achievements at the annual National School Games.
He said: "I am really happy that the young athletes are getting more recognition. This award is important so that the younger generation of athletes has something to work towards. For me, it just serves as motivation to work harder."
The other three nominees were Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) squash player Kan Weng Yean, judoka Wang Jinghan, formerly from Nanyang Girls' High School and Singapore Sports School gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht Man.
Jennifer See, general manager of F&N Foods, said of the award: "Our goal is to play our part in bringing out the best in every young athlete by empowering and inspiring them to outdo themselves in their chosen sport."
Hui's priority is getting ready for Hougang's S-League season opener on April 4 against the Young Lions. But he has loftier ambitions.
He said: "The goal is to eventually play overseas. Recently, many players have been going overseas to Thailand and Malaysia.
"Hopefully, I can do the same and maybe take a step further (than South-east Asia), if possible."
Hougang coach Philippe Aw has only known Hui for slightly over a year, but the 40-year-old is already impressed by the midfielder's resilience and dedication to football.
"As a young boy stepping into a professional set-up, you are sometimes given the rough treatment. We come in hard on you and we tackle you just to see how tough you are. He had no fear and just did what he needed to," said Aw.
"He is always giving 100 per cent in training, he takes instructions very well and he has got a good set of brains."
Throughout his 12 years of playing football, Hui has been driven by his love for the sport.
He chose to miss his promotional examinations during his first year at MJC in 2015, as it clashed with the 2016 Asian Football Confederation Under-19 Championship qualifiers in Thailand. He was retained for a year.
ST sports editor Lee Yulin said: "He has risked much and sacrificed much as he pursues his passion for football. This, together with his talent and focus, make him a role model for youth athletes."