SINGAPORE - National swimmer Joseph Schooling was named The Straits Times Athlete of the Year at an awards ceremony held at Raffles Hotel today, honouring the Singaporean swim sensation's performance in the pool last year.
The award, presented annually by The Straits Times, the English flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is into its seventh year.
The award, sponsored by isotonic drink 100Plus, honours the athlete whose triumphs in the sporting arena last year was most impactful, and also pays tribute to other outstanding Singapore athletes whose individual and collective achievements lit up the local sporting scene in 2014.
In a year packed with major sporting events and with hundreds of local athletes flying the Singapore flag both locally and overseas, 19-year-old swimmer Joseph Schooling was a history-maker whose achievements were unrivalled.
At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July, he clocked a national record (51.69sec) in the men's 100m butterfly event en route to winning a silver medal - Singapore's first swimming medal at the quadrennial Games.
Joseph, who was also a nominee for the 2011 and 2013 ST awards, then completed a hat-trick of medals in the butterfly events at the Asian Games in September - gold in the 100m, silver in the 50m and bronze in the 200m. His gold medal in the 100m was Singapore's first Asian Games gold in men's swimming since Ang Peng Siong's 100m freestyle gold at the 1982 Asian Games.
The award was presented to Joseph's parents by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information, who was the Guest-of-Honour at the event. Joseph, currently a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin in the United States, could not return to Singapore for the ceremony.
Said Joseph: "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."
Mr Wong said: "Joseph is a very deserving winner because of his achievements that he had at the Asian Games and also at the Commonwealth (Games). I think he has a lot of potential, he's shown that potential already, and he can still get better. He truly embodies the spirit of the games. He's bounced back from adversity, he's had to go through very tough training, and he continues to maintain a certain humility about him.
The other four nominees were Jazreel Tan (bowling), Samantha Yom (sailing), Bernie Chin (sailing) and Aloysius Yapp (cuesports).
Mr Marc Lim, Sports Editor of The Straits Times, said: "That Joseph's accomplishments in 2014 stand out, even against Youth Olympic, World Junior and Asian Games champions speaks volumes of what he has achieved. 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. Perhaps his talent acted against him when he was previously nominated for his performances at the SEA Games. We all felt he was destined for the bigger stage. And he has proved that this year, which is why he thoroughly deserves his award."
Previous winners of The Straits Times Athlete of the Year are:
- Safuwan Baharudin (2013)
- Laurentia Tan (2012)
- Fu Mingtian (2011)
- Women's Table Tennis Team (2010)
- Quah Ting Wen (2009)
- Tao Li (2008)
This year's panel of distinguished judges were made up of sports officials, former athletes - including one who was a former winner of the award and gone on to become a coach - as well as sports journalists from The Straits Times. They are:
1. Marc Lim, Sports Editor, The Straits Times
2. Lee Yulin, Deputy Sports Editor, The Straits Times
3. Chris Chan, Secretary-General, Singapore National Olympic Council
4. Toh Boon Yi, Chief, Chief (Strategic Development & Marketing Group), Sport Singapore
5. Yip Ren Kai, Athletes' Commission, Singapore National Olympic Council, former national water polo player
6. Fu Mingtian, Badminton coach, former national shuttler and 2011 SEA Games champion. 2011 winner of The Straits Times Athlete of the Year
7. Cyrus Medora, Chief Executive Officer, Netball Singapore
8. Chia Han Keong, Assistant Sports Editor, The Straits Times
9. Rohit Brijnath, Senior Writer, The Straits Times
The Straits Times Athlete of the Year is sponsored by title sponsor 100Plus since the award's' inception in 2009.