SINGAPORE - Safuwan Baharudin has a knack for creating history.
Part of the Singapore team that won a record fourth Asean crown in 2012, he was instrumental in the LionsXII bringing the Malaysian league title across the Causeway last year - after 19 years.
Yesterday, the national footballer rewrote the history books once again, by being the first male and first from a team sport to be crowned The Straits Times Athlete of the Year.
The defender, who also won a SEA Games bronze in December, edged out national record-breaking hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist and swimming star Joseph Schooling to receive the honour at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.
They were nominated for their 2013 sporting achievements.
"I am happy with the win because it is hard to be recognised in team sports when compared to individual sports," said the 22- year-old, who received his award from the guest of honour, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.
"I have never won an individual accolade like this, so this award is a big boost for my career."
He was chosen by a panel of eight judges - four Straits Times sports desk journalists, Singapore National Olympic Council vice- president Low Teo Ping, national gymnast Lim Heem Wei, and former athletes Jean Ng (netball) and Ronald Susilo (badminton).
Said Straits Times sports editor Marc Lim, who chaired the judging panel: "All four had an outstanding 2013. But this award rewards more than just sporting achievements. We look for feats that inspire.
"Safuwan stood out in a Lions XII team which made local football part of the Singapore sporting conversation again. He then won a SEA Games bronze. It is always hard to single out an individual in a team sport. But Safuwan's assured performances for club and country are why he shines that much brighter than his peers."
Started in 2009, the award is backed by isotonic drink 100Plus.
Said F&N chief executive officer (non-alcoholic beverages) Ng Jui Sia: "The annual award is celebrated by both the sports community and proud Singaporeans because it continues to recognise the outstanding achievements of athletes who have worked hard to bring honour in their sport and to Singapore in both the local and international sports scenes."
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