Veterans Gilchrist, Tan steal the show with Sportsman, Sportswoman of the Year wins

This is billiards player Gilchrist's second award and bowler Tan's first Sportswoman gong

From left: Paddler Koen Pang (Sportsboy of the Year), bowler Cherie Tan (Sportswoman of the Year) and billiards player Peter Gilchrist (Sportsman of the Year) after the Singapore Sports Awards 2020 presentation. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - What has traditionally been a night of pomp and celebration for the sports fraternity was given a Covid-19 twist on Wednesday (Oct 28), as the Singapore Sports Awards sported a new look owing to safety rules during the pandemic.

The glitzy hotel ballroom was swopped for the Sport Singapore auditorium, with attendees limited to only award nominees and selected guests such as Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.

In keeping with social distancing measures, nominees were seated 1m apart in a separate waiting area and could only enter the main hall when the winner of the category was announced.

The ceremony was also livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube.

But even as celebrations were muted for Singapore sports' biggest night, there was still much to cheer about as veteran athletes Peter Gilchrist (cue sports) and Cherie Tan (bowling) took home the Sportsman of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year accolades.

Billiards world champion Gilchrist, 52, said winning his second Sportsman gong after his first in 2014 was a "dream come true".

Olympic champion Joseph Schooling had won the last five editions of the award after Gilchrist's win six years ago.

Middlesbrough-born Gilchrist was rewarded for an excellent performance last year where he claimed his sixth world title and sixth consecutive English Billiards singles gold at the 2019 SEA Games.

While Gilchrist lamented a "totally different" awards ceremony, he said: "I hope that in years to come, we can look back at this and have a bit of a laugh about it.

"Hopefully it's a one-off (thing) because it's really nice when we're all together having dinner and having a good time."

Like many of his fellow athletes, he is "raring to go" after a virus-enforced hiatus as he targets a seventh world title and SEA Games gold next year.

First-time winner Tan also had a stellar season that saw her become the first Asian to win the women's Masters trophy at the 2019 World Bowling Women's Championships. The 32-year-old was also the first Asian to win the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship title and was part of the gold-medal winning team at the SEA Games.

"2019 was a fantastic year for me and I'm sure I'll remember it in time to come," she said.

"There's definitely disappointment that we can't carry forward the momentum but at the end of the day, we still need a break to reset and get going for the next year."

Milestones were also achieved for young athletes Koen Pang (table tennis) and fencer Amita Berthier, who won the Sportsboy and Sportsgirl awards for their achievements last year.

Pang, who is in National Service, is the first table tennis player to win the accolade since 1978. He said: "Last year was really a wonderful year for me as I've been playing really well throughout 2019. I'm really happy to have won this award."

World No. 59 women's foil fencer Berthier, 19, had previously been nominated two years in a row, before winning on her third try.

"It is a testament to all who believe in my abilities and who are in this journey with me," said Berthier from the United States where she is studying at the University of Notre Dame.

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