When The New Paper began its search for the top-10 finalists of the School Sports Star Award last week, Jane Leong did not rate her chances highly.
The Tampines Junior College sprinter, who overcame pain and lack of fitness to qualify for a semi-final spot in the National Schools' A Division 200m event in April - the first time she has done it in her five years of running - was simply content with being nominated for the award.
Jane did not go all out to canvass for votes, even though she informed her family and friends and her school announced to her schoolmates that voting for the award had begun.
That did not stop the 18-year-old from receiving the most number of votes among the girls with a whopping 3,517 entries.
"It's quite surprising because I didn't expect to go far," said Jane, who is still on medication for the painful rheumatoid arthritis which ruled her out for two months in January.
"I thought that maybe I would just get nominated and that would be the end of it. The school announced to the JC1s about the voting and I told my family, who spread the word, but I was really quite shy about it."
Along with votes from the public, a TNP judging panel decided that cager Zoey Suan, jumper Lynette Lim Enxuan, cross-country runner Kathleen Lin and footballer Sasi Kala Tamang would make up this year's top five girls along with Jane.
For the boys, Singapore Sports School swimmer Raphael Chau, who received the most votes with 2,011, will be joined by runner S Muruganathan, tennis player Ashton Tan, hockey and floorball player Jarryl Chan and basketball player Thng Yong-An.
The 10 student athletes will now compete for the ultimate prize.
Two winners - one boy and one girl - will be decided by a panel of judges and public votes.
Voting for the winners starts today and closes on Tuesday at noon. The votes in the previous round to decide the top 10 will not be counted.
Details of the prizes - sponsored by H-TWO-O - for the winners and the remaining eight finalists, will be announced in due course.
Last year, Raffles Institution sailor Jonathan Yeo and Crescent Girls' School softball player Aiko Seko took home grand prizes of $3,500 each while the eight remaining finalists walked away with $500 each.
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