This time the men get it

SINGAPORE - Last year, the message for Singapore's male athletes was loud and clear: not good enough.

This came after the Singapore Sports Awards (SSA) selections committee decided that there was no deserving nominee for the Sportsman of the Year award - only the third time in SSA's 47-year history that there was no winner for the prestigious category.

Yesterday, however, the Sportsman of the Year title made its way back into the fold for this year's awards, which will be given out on June 7 at Orchard Hotel.

Two nominees were named - swimmer Joseph Schooling and billiards player Peter Gilchrist.

United States-based Schooling, 18, set seven national records and was Singapore's most bemedalled athlete at the Myanmar SEA Games with five gold medals.

Gilchrist, 45, claimed his third world title, beating world No.1 David Causier in the International Billiards and Snooker Federation World Billiards Championship. He also claimed his third successive English billiards singles gold at last year's SEA Games.

Said Schooling, who won the award in 2012: "Maybe missing out last year gave us the push we needed. Personally, I did not have a good 2012, and it made me want to do better."

The Bolles School (Florida) student added: "This is the best award you can get as a sportsman in the country, and I'm happy and proud to be nominated.

"To be in the mix with a world champion like Peter says it all."

Gilchrist, whose stellar year began with victories in the Irish and Scottish Opens, was glad that the award will see a winner this year.

He said: "I remembered telling myself at last year's SSA ceremony that maybe I'd get nominated if I win the world championship, and ensure there's no repeat of this.

"Thankfully things worked out. I feel very privileged to be nominated alongside Joseph, who was tremendous. He produced the goods when he needed to and that is the mark of a great sportsman."

On the selection criteria, Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) secretary-general Chris Chan insisted that there were no changes to how the athletes were assessed.

However, he said: "This year, we want to highlight three important areas the athletes are judged on. One, the nominees' achievements must be exceptional, taking into consideration the standard of the competition.

"Second, they must also be outstanding role models. Finally, they must have inspired the nation through their sporting achievements."

The Sportswoman of the Year award will see familiar faces vying for the title, with bowler Shayna Ng and paddler Feng Tianwei being named as the nominees.

The duo were also nominated for the award last year, which Feng won.

The 27-year-old world No. 5 finished first in the team and doubles categories at last year's Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships.

Ng, meanwhile, bagged the women's title at the International Bowling Championships last January.

Said the 24-year-old, who is in Kuala Lumpur defending her women's title at the Malaysia Open: "I'm a bit surprised to be nominated, because bowling wasn't in the SEA Games last year.

"It's an honour to be nominated, and I am thankful for all the support from everyone and for the recognition."

A total of 11 awards will be up for grabs at the SSA - jointly organised by SNOC and Sport Singapore - including Sportsboy, Sportsgirl, and Coach of the Year.

The Straits Times received two out of five nominations for the Most Inspiring Sports Story of the Year award.

Both nominees - May Chen ("Future's still in her hands") and Rohit Brijnath ("Limbs lost but she finds new hope") - had written on amputee shooter Aishah Samad.

The nominees Sportsman of the Year Peter Gilchrist (cue sports), Joseph Schooling (swimming)

Sportswoman of the Year Shayna Ng (bowling), Feng Tianwei (table tennis)

Sportsboy of the Year Muhammad Jaris Goh (bowling), Loh Jia Yi (sailing), Muhammad Nur Alfian Juma'en (silat), Quah Zheng Wen (swimming)

Sportsgirl of the Year Janine Khoo (equestrian), Bertha Han (sailing), Martina Lindsay Veloso (shooting), Ho Lin Ying (wushu)

Coach of the Year Sheng Shi Jie (wushu), Jing Junhong (table tennis), Babella Balazs (canoeing), Fernando Alegre Arbulu (sailing)

Team of the Year (Event) Kimberly Lim, Savannah Siew (sailing 420 women's team - 420 World Championships 2013), Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu (table tennis women's doubles - World

Championships 2013) Team of the Year (Team Sport) Men's water polo team, men's basketball team

Best Sports Event of the Year (Local) Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, Great Eastern Women's Run, DBS Marina Regatta

Best Sports Event of the Year (International) Extreme Sailing Series Singapore, HSBC Women's Champions, OCBC Cycle Singapore.

Most Inspiring Sports Story of the Year Singapore cerebral palsy footballer Harun Rahamad takes his flight global (Justin Ong, Yahoo Singapore), Navy man's 1.67m dream (Low Lin Fhoong, Today), Future's still in her hands (May Chen, The Straits Times), Limbs lost but she finds new hope (Rohit Brijnath, The Straits Times), A high-flyer, in every sense (David Lee, The New Paper)

This article was published on May 6 in The Straits Times.

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