SINGAPORE - Five years ago, para archer Nur Syahidah Alim burst onto the scene with gold medals in the individual compound and mixed team in her first competitive outing at the Asean Para Games (APG).
Her career has seen a meteoric rise since, with her biggest achievement coming in a “breakthrough year” last year when the 34-year-old won a historic gold medal at the World Archery Para Championships in the Netherlands.
Not only did it earn Singapore a spot at the Tokyo Paralympics, but her world title also helped propel her to the top of the world rankings.
To cap off the sterling year, the world No. 1 para archer was on Friday (Aug 7) crowned Sportswoman of the Year at the Singapore Disability Sports Awards (SDSA) presented by Haw Par Corporation.
She emerged the winner among a strong field that comprised Paralympic medallists Yip Pin Xiu (swimming) and Laurentia Tan (equestrian), Diane Neo (bowling), Nur Aini Mohamad Yasli (powerlifting), Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha (boccia) and Claire Toh (table tennis).
Syahidah, a first-time recipient, said: “This award shows how much my team and I have achieved in the year.
“This will really give me motivation to do even better and achieve more milestones for Singapore in the years to come.”
One of those milestones could be reached at next year’s Paralympics, where she is targeting Singapore’s first-ever medal in the sport.
While Syahidah, who reached the quarter-finals in Rio 2016, will have to wait another year to compete at the Aug 24-Sept 5 Tokyo Games next year after it was postponed owing to Covid-19, she is taking the extra time in her stride.
“It gives everyone a fair playing field to prepare for the Games and at the same time, there’s that peace of mind that we are competing in a safe environment,” said the athlete, who has cerebral palsy.
“With the time given to us, it’s an opportunity to prepare as much as possible for the Games.”
Bowler Eric Foo, 32, was named the Sportsman of the Year after a fruitful season that saw him bag two gold medals (mixed singles TPB4 and mixed doubles TPB4) and a silver (all events mixed TPB4) at the Thailand leg of the World Para Bowling Tour Series last year.
He also claimed two golds (men’s singles TPB4 and men’s all events TPB4) and one bronze (men’s doubles TPB4) at the Philippines leg of the series last year.
Foo, who has an intellectual impairment, also bagged the Team of the Year award with Muhammad Farhan Ismail. The duo won the mixed doubles and men’s doubles events at the series in Thailand and Philippines respectively.
After missing out on the APG this year, which was postponed twice before it was cancelled owing to the pandemic, Foo is gunning for honours in next year’s Games in Vietnam.
He said: “We have trained quite hard and at least we won the two gold medals in Thailand and then in the Philippines. We were hoping that these Games won’t be cancelled, but we will continue to train hard for the next Games.”
The virtual awards ceremony also saw swimmer Toh Wei Soong picking up the Sportsboy of the Year accolade for the second year running for his achievements at the World Para Swimming World Series and Japan Para Swimming Championships last year.
Nine winners were honoured at Friday’s ceremony, which was supported by Haw Par Corporation with its $120,000 donation to the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC). Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who was the guest of honour, lauded the athletes for continuing to “train hard under extraordinary circumstances” despite the cancellation of the APG and postponement of the Paralympics.
“To our athletes, we hope you stay motivated and encouraged. As you resume training and gear up towards the next competition, you can be sure that we will cheer you on as One Team Singapore.”
SDSC president Kevin Wong said: "As we prepare to celebrate the nation's 55th birthday, we would also like to take this opportunity to take stock of how far we have come as one community, and how much more we can strive to achieve.
"Today's celebration recognises the contributions and achievements of individuals, organisations and communities, and we must also remember that there have been many who have come before us, without whom today's achievements would not have been possible."
Sportsman: Eric Foo (bowling)
Sportswoman: Nur Syahidah Alim (archery)
Sportsboy: Toh Wei Soong (swimming)
Sportsgirl: Award was not given out to any athlete
Team: Tenpin Bowling Pair - Muhammad Farhan Ismail, Eric Foo
Coach (high performance): Pang Qing Liang (archery)
Coach (developmental): Muhammad Abdul Razak Mansor (powerlifting)
Community Impact (volunteering): serendipET
Community Impact (events & initiatives): Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore
Lifetime Achievement: Henry Tan