SINGAPORE - Joseph Schooling won the Sportsman of the Year for a record-extending fifth time at the Singapore Sports Awards on Wednesday night (July 18), but said he was "fortunate" to win the accolade this year.
The reigning Olympic 100m butterfly champion may have won six gold medals at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last year, as well as the joint bronze in the men's 100m fly at the Fina World Championships, but the 23-year-old "wasn't too happy" with his showing in the last season.
"Based on how I felt last year, I was very fortunate to win this year," said Schooling at the award ceremony at the Marina Bay Sands on Wednesday night.
"When you go into a competition or awards, you wouldn't want to have any doubts... after 2016 (Rio Olympics), yes, I thought I performed well, but last year I thought I would have done better."
This was his fourth consecutive win in the category. He also triumphed in 2012. Fellow swimmer Ang Peng Siong (1983-1985) was the only other athlete to win the Sportsman gong thrice in a row.
While he felt his performances last year were below his high standards, Schooling said he is in much better shape to take on the Asian Games in Indonesia next month.
GRATEFUL FOR THE SUPPORT
It's a great night for not only myself but also my family and everyone who has supported me. Four in a row, I think that's a new record. It's a huge honour and I am pleasantly surprised, humbled and hopefully (there's) more to come.
JOSEPH SCHOOLING, after winning the Sportsman of the Year award for a fourth consecutive time, and fifth in total.
At the 2014 edition in Incheon, South Korea, he won one gold (100m fly), one silver (50m fly) and one bronze (200m fly).
He said: "I am happy the way it turned out (last year) because it opened my eyes: you can't be eating rubbish, drinking soda and staying up late. I haven't been this light (in body weight) since Rio, my strength's back up, and I am pulling less body weight with the strength I have and I am really feeling the difference in the pool."
The aquatics fraternity also scooped up several other major titles on Wednesday night.
Swimming's National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan was named the Coach of the Year, while synchronised swimmer Debbie Soh received the Sportsgirl of the Year accolade.
Soh and the rest of the 2017 SEA Games synchronised swimming team were named the Sportsboy/ Sportsgirl Team of the Year (event).
The 20-year-old Soh, who won three SEA Games golds (solo free, duet technical and team free) in Malaysia, said: "I felt like last year was a series of many peaks... although whether or not we win shouldn't be the main thing that drives us, but it will help us push forward.
"It shows that what we have been doing has been working for us."
Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy was thrilled for all the winners, and said it would set the entire team up well for the upcoming Asiad.
The 66-year-old said: "Definitely (these awards) are a validation of all the good work done by everybody, and all the individuals who were recognised really deserved their awards and I am really excited for everyone.
"This proves that the whole supporting eco-system has made a difference and this will set us up in our preparations for the Asian Games."
The other winners of the main awards were paddler Feng Tianwei (Sportswoman of the Year), sailor Muhammad Daniel Kei Mohammad Yazid (Sportsboy of the Year).
The women's bowling team won the Team of the Year (event), while the women's floorball team won the Team of the Year (team sport).
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu were among the guests at the gala event which celebrates Singapore's best sporting talents.
In his speech, Mr Tan, who is Singapore National Olympic Council president, said: "We endeavour to do our best.
"Can we do better? For sure, always, we want to make sure that we support each and every one of you as best as we can.
"Tonight is a testament of that journey... there will be ups and there will be downs, but I think Singapore has come a long way."
Sportsman of the Year: Joseph Schooling (swimming)
Sportswoman of the Year: Feng Tianwei (table tennis)
Sportsboy of the Year: Muhammad Daniel Kei Mohammad Yazid (sailing)
Sportsgirl of the Year: Debbie Soh (synchronised swimming)
Coach of the Year: Gary Tan (swimming)
Team of the Year (team sport): Floorball women's team
Team of the Year (event): Bowling women's team
Sportsboy/Sportsgirl Team of the Year (event): Synchronised swimming 2017 SEA Games team
Best Sports Event of the Year (local): Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2017
Best Sports Event of the Year (international): 2017 HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens
Sports Journalist of the Year: Low Lin Fhoong (Today)
Best Sports Photo of the Year: Abd Rahman Bujang