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Singapore Sports Awards 2012

Joseph Schooling was eligible for the junior title but his exploits in the pool meant he ended up winning the Sportsman of the Year crown, becoming the youngest winner of the prize in the process. — PHOTO COURTESY OF CANON SINGAPORE

Article by Fabius Chen

JOSEPH, FU ARE TOPS

Swimmer is named the country’s top male athlete but misses presentation due to maths exam.

MAKING sporting history and sitting for his maths exam at the same time – yesterday was a big day for Joseph Schooling.

The 16-year-old swimmer was one of the big winners at the Singapore Sports Awards at Swissotel the Stamford, beating shooter Zhang Jin, who won the 10m air rifle gold at the SEA Games, to the accolade.

It makes Joseph the first swimmer since Mark Chay in 2002 to win the award, in addition to being its youngest recipient.

Kegler Lim Zhong held the previous mark. He was 18 when he won the award in 2000.

But, while mother May Schooling described the accolade as one of her son’s finest achievements to date, the swimmer himself had to wait to savour the moment.

At the exact moment his name was announced by organising committee chairman Low Teo Ping, Joseph was about to start his maths exam at Bolles School, a Florida-based college preparatory institution.

‘It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t attend the awards ceremony,’ he told The Straits Times via e-mail. ‘I wish I could be there right now.’

May, who spent the lead-up to the ceremony reminding her son to concentrate on his exam, said: ‘I’ve been nervous all day. Joseph is so competitive, I know this means a lot to him.’

The award reinforces Joseph’s meteoric rise last year.

At his SEA Games debut in Palembang, Indonesia, he set four national records on the way to four medals – two golds, one silver and a bronze.

To date, he is the only Singaporean swimmer to have met the A qualifying time for this summer’s Olympic Games.

According to him, this award will serve as inspiration to reach greater heights in London.

‘That’s the next big thing,’ he said. ‘I’m just focused on doing my best and, after that, I can start thinking about other things.’

And that, his mother noted, includes looking ahead to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

‘The aim is still a podium finish at the Olympics,’ May said. ‘Maybe in four years’ time.

‘Joseph has opened doors for other young swimmers, showing that achieving the Olympic A mark is possible. They just have to work hard and have the right training, exposure and support.’

She also stressed the importance of making sure that her son does not get carried away by his latest award. At 16, he was also eligible for the Schoolboy of the Year award but the Singapore Swimming Association elected to nominate him for the senior prize.

‘This will put pressure on him and he will put pressure on himself,’ she said. ‘We have to keep him down to earth – he’s still a boy!’

Article by May Chen

Fu Mingtian taking a call from Singapore Badminton Association president Lee Yi Shyan, who rang from overseas to congratulate her immediately after she received the Sportswoman of the Year award. — ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG

Modest Fu expresses surprise at accolade while a rival praises her for sterling achievements in 2011

THE first Singaporean shuttler to win a SEA Games women’s singles title is now also the first badminton player to be crowned Sportswoman of the Year.

Fu Mingtian, 22, received the accolade last night at the Singapore Sports Awards, edging out three other nominees: kegler Daphne Tan, swimmer Tao Li and paddler Feng Tianwei.

Ironically, while many in the sporting fraternity had made the shuttler their pick – the winners were revealed only at the ceremony, unlike previous years – Fu had written her own chances off.

‘I didn’t think about who might win, but I definitely thought it wouldn’t be me,’ she said. ‘The other nominees are all very prominent athletes and very good in their fields. Compared to them, I’m a newer athlete.

‘I’m so happy that I’m a bit lost for words now.’

Tan was nominated for finishing second in the World Women’s Championships Masters, Tao for bagging seven golds at the SEA Games and Feng for winning two titles on the International Table Tennis Federation pro circuit.

Fu, who is also The Straits Times Athlete of the Year, took home a trophy, $10,000 cash and a Singapore Airlines return air ticket to selected destinations.

Her heroics at November’s SEA Games in Jakarta marked the third time that Singapore had struck gold in the sport at the biennial Games since its inception in 1959.

Wong Shoon Keat had won the men’s singles in 1983 while the Republic also took the women’s team gold in 2003.

Fu had defied the odds and a hostile home crowd of 10,000 at the Senayan Stadium, coming from a game down – and a point away from defeat – to topple home favourite Firdasari Adryanti.

While the Hubei native admitted that it does not make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Olympics – teammate Gu Juan has been nominated for the women’s singles slot – she said the award would go a long way in motivating her.

‘This award is as meaningful to me as the SEA Games gold and will motivate me to continue working harder for future tournaments and continue to fight for a place at the next Olympics,’ she said.

Bowler Tan, who said she watched Fu’s gold medal-winning match on YouTube, also lauded her fellow nominee.

‘My money was on Mingtian when I saw the list of nominees,’ she said. ‘She deserves it, so there’s no disappointment. Being nominated alongside people like her is already a bonus.’

Feng’s failure to capture the Sportswoman of the Year crown marks the first time since 1999 that table tennis walked away from the annual event without bagging any of the major awards.

Article by Alvin Chia

Swimmers Quah Zheng Wen (left) and Amanda Lim are all smiles after bagging the Sportsboy and Sportsgirl of the Year awards respectively. — PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Young swimmers steal the show

THINGS went swimmingly at the Singapore Sports Awards last night when Quah Zheng Wen and Amanda Lim swept the Sportsboy and Sportsgirl of the Year awards.

With Joseph Schooling bagging the Sportsman title, it meant swimming captured three of the four major individual titles at stake.

Zheng Wen, 15, said: ‘I’m elated and it’s a pleasant surprise.’

The prodigious teenager had a stellar end to 2011, when he won the 400m individual medley gold on his maiden SEA Games outing.

The Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student felt the award was a timely boost for him but stressed that his eye was firmly set on the future.

‘This is a bonus that comes along the way, and not the ultimate goal – which is to make the Olympics,’ he said.

Likewise for Amanda, who said the accolade would spur her on towards the London Games.

‘I’m honoured and pleased,’ she said. ‘It’ll motivate me to train harder for London.’

The 19-year-old admitted that, even though she had performed well consistently over the past few years, she ‘didn’t give the award much thought last time’.

When asked if winning the award was any different from a medal, she replied: ‘Both require a lot of hard work and they are not easy to get.’

She won four golds at last year’s SEA Games, and is expected to make the London Olympics.

In two weeks’ time, the pair will compete in the South-east Asia Swimming Championships – their last shot at lowering their Olympic B times and improving their chances of a place in London.

The bowling camp received recognition too when William Woo won the Coach of the Year award for the second time in a row.

Yet, he insisted: ‘It’s not solely my effort.

‘My team of coaches and players did the job and delivered the goods.

‘I reaped the reward.’

Roll of Honour

Sportsman of the Year: Joseph Schooling (swimming)

Sportswoman of the Year: Fu Mingtian (badminton)

Sportsboy of the Year: Quah Zheng Wen (swimming)

Sportsgirl of the Year: Amanda Lim (swimming)

Coach of the Year: William Woo (bowling)

Sportsboy/sportsgirl Team of the Year (event): Optimist World Championships team (sailing): Ryan Lo, Elisa Yokoyama, Kimberly Lim, Jillian Lee, Jessica Goh.

Most Inspiring Sports Story of the Year:
‘Not just flesh and blood, but the football heart’ by Terrence Voon, The Straits Times

Team of the Year (event): National wushu women’s duilian team (above): Tao Yi Jun, Tay Yu Juan, Emily Sin

Best Sports Event of the Year (international): 2011 Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix

Best Sports Event of the Year (local): OCBC Cycle Singapore 2011

Article by Fabius Chen

ST writer bags story award

ST sports correspondent Terrence Voon will donate the $1,000 cheque that comes with the award to The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund, which helps children from low-income families. — ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

THE marquee may have read Singapore Sports Awards, but the Republic’s finest athletes were not the only ones who had something to cheer about last night.

The Straits Times’ sports correspondent Terrence Voon also left the ceremony at Swissotel the Stamford with a trophy, after he clinched the Most Inspiring Sports Story of the Year gong.

‘Not just flesh and blood, but the football heart’, published on June 15 last year, told the story of the sacrifices made by the family of Singapore Armed Forces FC goalkeeper Shahril Jantan to help keep his football dream alive.

Not Just Flesh And Blood

The report was part of a six-part series, in which the paper paid tribute to the unsung heroes of the S-League.

‘I would like to thank Shahril and his family for opening up their lives to me,’ said Voon, 34, who joined the paper in 2007.

‘We often talk about the sacrifices that athletes make but what I wanted to do with this feature was to tell a story from the point of view of an athlete’s family.

‘Their support can often make or break an athlete’s career and, in this case, their support truly moved me.’

Shahril said Voon’s story hit the mark. ‘It expressed exactly what I wanted to say,’ the 32-year-old said. ‘I couldn’t ask for anything more.

‘It’s one of those stories I’ll keep forever and one day show my daughter (Sharlein Anna, now four months old).’

ST sports editor Marc Lim said: ‘Sports heroes are not just the ones who break records and win medals. They are the ones who inspire us, who remind us every day of what the true meaning of passion and dedication is. Terrence’s story celebrates that.’

Another of Voon’s stories – ‘Granny battling cancer wins gold’ – was also nominated for the inaugural award, while The New Paper’s Denis Edward’s ‘Dark past, bright future’ rounded off the shortlist.

Voon said the $1,000 cheque that comes with the award will be donated to The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund, which helps children from low-income families.

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