The Straits Times Athlete of the Year: Swimmer Joseph Schooling beats four others for 2014 accolade

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling added The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award to his growing trophy cabinet on March 5.

He topped a field that included world junior pool champion Aloysius Yapp; bowling's Jazreel Tan, winner of four 2014 Asian Games medals; and two Youth Olympic Games champions - sailors Bernie Chin and Samantha Yom.

Here's a look at the highlights of the award, which is into its seventh edition.

"I'm really honoured", says ST Athlete of the Year Joseph Schooling

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling capped off a phenomenal year in the pool when he was crowned The Straits Times Athlete of the Year 2014.

Said Schooling: "I'm really honoured. This is like the second biggest award after the Singapore Sports Awards, and I'm looking forward to doing Singapore proud at the SEA Games in June."

Schooling enjoyed a stellar 2014, delivering medals and rewriting history where it mattered. At the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July, he clinched a silver in the 100m butterfly in a national record time of 51.69sec. It was Singapore's first-ever swimming medal at the quadrennial meet, and the eighth fastest time in the world for 2014.

Said The Straits Times sports editor Marc Lim, who headed the 2014 award's nine-member judging panel: "We have all long known about Joseph's talents. But 2014 was the year in which he truly showed he was ready to compete against the very best in the world."

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Rohit Brijnath writes:All champions but Jo's got the edge

At the table of excellence and promise, of youth and yet of history, they sat. Samantha Yom, Bernie Chin and Aloysius Yapp, champions of the Youth Olympics and of a junior world. Two nominees were absent - as if to demonstrate that sport never stops for awards - but Jazreel Tan and Joseph Schooling were represented in spirit, in videos and by their families. All of them arrived here not for a contest but in fact a celebration of their feats, but still there was a trophy to be won and winning is what they do.

In the end, the trophy would go to the missing man, who probably spent his morning inhaling chlorine and fighting a clock in his Texas pool. Joseph Schooling is The Straits Times Athlete of the Year, but by a fingernail. In a year of exceptionalism by Singaporeans, he was just a trifle more exceptional. One might say it was a day no one was diminished yet one athlete elevated.

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Here is a look at Schooling's achievements, as well as those of the other nominees.

Joseph Schooling (swimming)

In 2014, Joseph Schooling learned more about swimming and himself as he made the quantum leap from dominating Asean meets to challenging world-class stars.

He started the year as the best in the South-east Asia region after winning five golds and a silver to be the Naypyidaw SEA Games' most decorated swimmer. And the Republic waited with bated breath to see if he can make the breakthrough against the human torpedoes competing at the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

That journey of discovery began in Glasgow in July when he learned to lighten up, get involved with banter in the swim team and ease the pressure. The result - a 100m butterfly silver, Singapore's first-ever swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games and setting a new national record in the process.

More was to come in Incheon as he completed a hat-trick of butterfly medals in the 100m (gold), 50m (silver) and 200m (bronze).

Outside the pool, he loves football and supports Chelsea. And to many Singaporean sports fans, this 19-year-old is indeed a Special One.

Find out how Joseph Schooling pushes himself to the limit in training.

Jazreel Tan (bowling)

Singapore is currently blessed with an outstanding crop of women's bowlers but 2014 undoubtedly belonged to Jazreel Tan.

Last September, the 25-year-old came home proudly clutching four Asian Games medals. In Incheon, the Singapore Sports School graduate bagged one gold (team), two silvers (singles and trios), and a bronze (all events) to emerge as Team Singapore's most bemedalled athlete at the quadrennial continental meet.

She was also crowned the Singapore Bowling Federation's Bowler of the Year for her tour de force in South Korea.

While she has won individual honours, Tan is very much a team player. After helping the women's side to the team gold at the Asian Games, she joined her comrades in an emotional celebration where tears of joy were shed.

With the SEA Games on home soil in June, Tan will be a strong favourite to dominate the lanes in Singapore.

Read more about Jazreel Tan's quest for perfection.

Aloysius Yapp (cuesports)

When he was a Secondary 2 student at St Patrick's School, Aloysius Yapp already knew what he wanted in life and he took the most dramatic measure to start the ball rolling.

He told his mother he wanted to quit his studies and be a professional pool player.

That daring decision was justified when he won last November's Under-19 nine-ball World Junior Pool Championships final in Shanghai. His victory is a classic tale of an athlete who simply refuses to surrender.

Even when his final opponent, Taiwanese Hsu Jui-an, raced to a 0-4 lead, the 18-year-old kept believing and eventually triumphed 11-10.

Ironically, Aloysius' winnings for the year could not cover his travel costs to international competitions. He is struggling in the red as he continues his quest to pot black balls.

But like a true champion, he is not giving up and he is targeting a gold medal to give Singaporeans more cheer at the SEA Games this June.

Aloysius Yapp's lonely path to the top of an unheralded sport.

Samantha Yom (sailing)

Singapore had tasted silver and bronze on sport's ultimate stage, and the next frontier was to strike gold.

Sailor Samantha Yom has done just that, standing on top of the podium at the Youth Olympic Games - the first time a Singaporean has finished first at an Olympic-level meet.

The 15-year-old won her Byte CII competition in Nanjing in August and it was a special moment when Majulah Singapura was played out loud and the five stars and crescent moon fluttered in the skies above Jinniu Lake Sailing Venue.

Trailing in second place at the beginning of the final day of racing, the Raffles Girls' School student kept her composure to eventually overhaul the leader, Odile van Aanholt of the Netherlands, by a single point.

She could have settled for a silver but Samantha showed great hunger to fight all the way to the end. Her reward is a place in Singapore's sporting history.

How Samantha Yom morphs from giggling schoolgirl in pinafore to suited-up sailor.

Bernie Chin (sailing)

Ten minutes after national team-mate Samantha Yom delivered Singapore's first gold at an Olympic-level meet, Bernie Chin made it to the top of the podium as well.

The Byte CII sailor's success in Nanjing was borne of sheer persistence. After the opening two races, he was placed last in the 30-strong fleet. To make it even worse, the event was postponed for three straight days due to the lack of winds.

But when competition resumed, the 15-year-old dug deep to claw his way into the lead in a show of mental strength.

Even after the final race, Bernie did not celebrate wildly. Instead, he waited calmly for the results to be confirmed.

With the YOG done and dusted, Bernie is now charting a course for the Summer Olympics.

Learn how Bernie Chin conquered his fears out at sea.

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