SINGAPORE - National bowler Muhammad Jaris Goh, who fired the Singapore men's team to a first medal at the World Men's Championships and a long-overdue medal at the Asian Games in 2018, was named The Straits Times' Athlete of the Year 2018 on Thursday (Feb 21).
The 24-year-old received his award from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in a ceremony before 180 guests at the Shangri-La Hotel.
In her speech, Minister Fu hailed all the nominees for exemplifying focus, determination and resilience, and added: "You have won medals, set new records, overcome obstacles, and triumphed over setbacks.
"Above all, you have demonstrated great sportsmanship and dedication to sport and all the values sport represents."
Goh was nominated alongside Yu Mengyu (table tennis), Toh Wei Soong (para-swimming), Martina Veloso (shooting) and Joseph Schooling (swimming) for the prestigious annual award, which is the only honour that recognises both able-bodied and disabled athletes.
Goh, who in 2014 was named the Sportsboy of the Year, earned the nod over the other nominees having played a key role as the Republic's men's team won a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August last year, the men's first since 2010. This preceded a bronze medal at the World Championships in Hong Kong in December.
In his speech, Goh thanked his parents and the Singapore Bowling Federation, and said: "The other nominees were so strong, so I really did not think I would win. I would like to thank everyone who made this happen."
Also, St Andrew's Secondary's hockey captain Sean See won the ST Young Athlete of the Year award for student-athletes who stood out in the National School Games and other school championships.
The 16-year-old was recognised for an act of sportsmanship during the Schools National hockey B Division bronze-medal play-off; he had requested a goal, which his team scored while an opponent was injured, to be chalked off. The Saints eventually lost the match after a penalty shoot-out.
Sean was nominated along with floorball player John Alicante Embile of Bukit Merah Secondary, high jumper Kampton Kam of Victoria Junior College, Putri Nur Syaliza of Queensway Secondary and the Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) C Division table tennis team - Ryan Eng, Ryan Chong, Ryan Tan, Ethan Ong, Ethan Chua, Silas Chua, Benjamin Wee and Seth Wong.
This is the 11th edition of ST Athlete of the Year award, which was started in 2009 with swimmer Tao Li the inaugural winner following her efforts at the 2008 Olympics.
Other winners were swimmer Quah Ting Wen (2009), the national women's table tennis team (2010), badminton player Fu Mingtian (2011), para-equestrienne Laurentia Tan (2012), footballer Safuwan Baharudin (2013), swimmer Joseph Schooling (2014, 2016) and para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu (2015). Para-table tennis player Jason Chee won last year's award.
ST sports editor Lee Yulin, who headed a seven-member judging panel for this year's award, said: "In a busy sporting year for Team Singapore, it was hard to distinguish among the nominees for the Athlete of the Year award, who all won medals at major Games.
"But when one considers the impact of their achievement on their own sport and the inspiration that it would provide to the wider sporting fraternity, then Jaris - with that historic World Championships medal - just edges it.
"His ability to inspire the team to two significant breakthroughs was a key reason why he won it."
Turning her attention to Sean, the only non-medal winner in the field of nominees for the ST Young Athlete of the Year, Lee said: "Winning is not the only thing that matters, especially at the schools level.
"Sean's act of sportsmanship, especially when there was a medal at stake, is to be lauded and we are thrilled to recognise him as the Young Athlete of the Year. "
Jennifer See, Managing Director, Singapore & YFI Malaysia, F&N Foods Singapore Pte Ltd said: "100Plus has been the proud presenter of The Straits Times Athlete of the Year Award since it was first launched in 2009.
"The spirit and objectives of the award align with 100Plus' commitment to support our athletes and encourage them to excel in their sport. Through our various initiatives, we hope to contribute to the national effort of nurturing potential young athletes in Singapore."
She added: "We would like to congratulate the nominees of this award and also the nominees of the ST Young Athlete of the Year award, on their stellar achievements.
"Their dedication to bring glory to Singapore and to their sports has inspired us all and filled our hearts with pride and joy. 100Plus remains committed to supporting our athletes on their journey to outdo themselves."