Singaporeans love winning awards, titles and breaking records

SINGAPORE - We love winning awards.

Last month, students from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, Hwa Chong Institution, Raffles Institution and Raffles Institution (Junior College) clinched gold in International Olympiads for Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics.

We've come a long way since our first single gold Olympiad medal in 1989.

And true to our reputation as geek central, Singaporeans have won the Robocup - the World Cup of the robotics world - yearly between 1999 and 2010.

But we are not all about books and educational competitions.

Last month, professional gamer Ho Kun Xian, 22, became the first Singaporean to win a top prize at the Evo Championship Series - a fighting game tournament - in the US.

Miss Catherine Boey, 20, won the gold medal in Beauty Therapy at the biennial WorldSkills competition in Germany.

Then there's Ms Angel Aurora Jalleh-Hosey, who won Miss Exotica 2012, a regional transgender beauty competition.

The 38-year-old said: "I'm pleased and honoured to win something for the country, especially since I was one of the older contestants."

"I am more confident (on stage) and feel like a different person. I won't stop competing even when I'm 40 and I will take on the younger ones," Jalleh-Hosey told The New Paper.

Singaporean Audrey Tan, 29, raised eyebrows when she emerged as New Zealand's Miss Erotica in 2011.

Why the hunt for awards?

"Getting involved in such pursuits gives them a sense of achievement and will help boost their self-confidence," said psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan, 58.

"Since our society focuses largely on tangible and visible measurements of success, doing well in such activities is sought after."

It is also about pushing yourself to be better.

Illusionists J. C. Sum, 35, and Ning Cai, 29, are hoping to set another record - for the world's highest tandem upside-down straightjacket escape - at this year's Night Festival after three previous magic-related records.

Said Mr Sum: "We're always looking for something unique or new so that it's fresh for the audience and a challenge for ourselves.

"People have expectations of us, so we always ask, 'What do we do next?'."

At last year's month-long food festival at Little India, the Indian Restaurants Association (Singapore) (IRAS) set a new world record for the most number of fish head curries - 2,012 bowls - served in a single sitting.

"It's truly a Singaporean dish and it's a way of bringing people together. People of different races took part in the event," said IRAS president C. Sankaranathan, 41.

In 2011, the festival set the world's longest dining table at 120m.

Singapore Book of Records founder and president Ong Eng Huat said: "Singaporeans are very competitive people. If they organise a project, they want it to be prominent and have good publicity.

"It is in our culture to grade everything - schools, student projects, food stalls. So an award or record is useful for any of these to outshine."

And if there's a record, you can bet someone here will try to break it.

Hot FM91.3 DJs Adam Piperdy, 22, and Gerald Koh (aka Boy Thunder), 28, hosted their radio show for more 77 hours in March in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest marathon for a radio music DJ show (team).

On average, Singaporeans attempt 150 records yearly, said Mr Ong, 55. About 100 records are Guinness World Records-certified.

Last month, local celebrity and children's author-illustrator Edmund Chen, 50, set a new record for the world's longest drawing by an individual.

But do not let your motives to win an award or break a record become an obsession.

Dr Ang warned: "A lot of times, a relentless pursuit of these achievements is not healthy.

"If one keeps on chasing these achievements, when does it stop?"

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