He had lost much, and then some, but still gave his all for his sport and his country. For that, para-table tennis player Jason Chee was yesterday named The Straits Times Athlete of the Year 2017.
The indefatigable naval serviceman was honoured for capturing a gold medal at the Asean Para Games just four months after losing his right eye to cancer.
Before that, he had lost three limbs and three fingers on his right hand in a naval accident in 2012.
In a poignant speech after receiving the trophy from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, he urged fellow athletes to give their all in what is ultimately a fleeting career: "Play for yourself, play for your teammates, play for the people who fell in love with the game and make sure to cherish every season, every game and every training. It will be over a lot sooner than you realise."
The other nominees were Muhamad Ridhwan (boxing), Cheyenne Goh (winter sports), Shayna Ng (bowling) and last year's winner Joseph Schooling (swimming).
In her speech before an audience of 200 at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel, Ms Fu lauded the athletes present, but also called on them to give back to society, saying: "Your sporting talent and achievements put you in a unique position as role models - so I urge you - use this privileged position to inspire others to give back to fellow Singaporeans, to bring positive change to our community."
ST editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/ Tamil Media Group, added: "Jason is an inspiration to us all, not only for the sporting medals he has won, but also for his sheer mental strength to overcome the many challenges life has thrown at him and to refuse to be defeated. He is a very deserving choice for ST Athlete of the Year."
CHERISH EVERY GAME
Play for yourself, play for your teammates, play for the people who fell in love with the game and make sure to cherish every season, every game and every training. It will be over a lot sooner than you will realise.
JASON CHEE, in his speech after receiving the award for ST Athlete of the Year.
This year also saw the introduction of a new accolade - the ST Young Athlete of the Year award, which honours student athletes for their achievements at the annual National School Games and other school competitions. It was won by former Meridian Junior College footballer Justin Hui.
Both awards are backed by F&N's 100Plus.