Encouragement and prizes for Shing Kee
He did not harbour hopes of representing Singapore in his sport because he felt it was difficult to get into the national team.
But, after some encouragement from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong yesterday, Raffles Institution paddler Chia Shing Kee dares to dream big.
The 14-year-old was named the boys' winner of The New Paper School Sports Star Award 2014 presented by H-TWO-O at an award ceremony at Raffles Institution yesterday.
He took home a trophy, a certificate and a $3,000 cheque from YEO's.
Mr Wong, who was the Guest of Honour at yesterday's ceremony, spoke with Shing Kee and his parents during a tea reception and encouraged the paddler to achieve greater heights in his sport.
A bashful Shing Kee told TNP: "Studies are still a priority for me, but perhaps I can consider trying for the Youth Olympic Games in 2018, or the SEA (South-east Asia) Games in the future."
Four years ago, he underwent surgery on his hip and was told by doctors that he could never play competitively again.
He spent a month in a wheelchair after his operation but he defied the doctor's orders to attend training sessions on his crutches after that.
He is now fully recovered and helped his team clinch the C Division boys' team title at the Schools Nationals this year.
Shing Kee was shocked when his name was announced as the winner.
He said: "I was shocked when my name was called out because I didn't expect to win; there were others who deserved to win as well."
His father, Stephen, added: "Since the award ceremony was held at RI, I guessed the boys' winner was between Aizat (Jufrie, fellow finalist from RI) and Shing Kee.
"Aizat really deserved it too; he deferred his studies for a year to represent Singapore at the Commonwealth Games. I hope Shing Kee can follow in his footsteps and represent Singapore in the next YOG," added Stephen.
It has been a busy few months for Shing Kee.
He competed in the Singapore National Games, as well as the Singapore Table Tennis Association's Char Yong National Youth Top 10 Table Tennis Tournament earlier this month, where he finished second in the Under-15 category and fifth in the U-18 section.
This Saturday, he will jet off to the Philippines to compete in the Asean School Games.
Shing Kee said: "I will probably use the prize money to buy the rubber and glue for my bat, and use some of it to treat my friends and family.
"And it's not all table tennis for me. After I come back from the Asean School Games, I will rest for a few days and start studying again."
Catholic Junior College shooter Chua Shin Yoong was named the girls' winner yesterday, but was unable to attend the award ceremony due to personal reasons.
Like Shing Kee, the 18-year-old will receive a trophy, a certificate and a $3,000 cheque from YEO's.
In his speech yesterday, Mr Wong said: "All of these stories (about the nominated student-athletes) show that there is something special about participating in sports.
"It's not an easy ride, it's not smooth sailing, you will see challenges. That is the nature of sports."
"And, by being an athlete, what you will experience is the triumph of the human spirit and you will learn to grow, you will become resilient and you will build up your character," added Mr Wong, also the Second Minister for Communication and Information.
"Ultimately, you will become a better person."
- Boys' winner: Chia Shing Kee (table tennis), Raffles Institution
- Girls' winner: Chua Shin Yoong (shooting), Catholic Junior College
- Finalists: Arfynna Shakira Sariman (hockey), Crescent Girls' School; Tong Kah Mun (gymnastics), Nanyang Junior College; Charlene Ong (netball), St Margaret's Secondary School; Alexandra Stewart (netball), Singapore Sports School; Aizat Jufrie (gymnastics), Raffles Institution; John Christopher (basketball), Unity Secondary School; Marcus Tang (football), Tanjong Katong Secondary School; Muhd Indra Moraga (football), Hong Kah Secondary School
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong on...
Maximising a student-athlete’s potential:
I never made the cut for competitive sports, but all of you have. You have the special ability and talent in sports, and I want to encourage all of you to go as far as you can and maximise your potential.
The support system for those who want to pursue sports:
I want to assure you that if you have the potential to excel, we are going to give you the support to pursue your dreams in sports all the way, to the highest level. The support system is there, we are building it up... so the pursuit of sports is a good thing. There is a future in sports — make full use of it and go as far as you can.
The role teacher-coaches play:
I want to acknowledge also the teachers and coaches because you play an important role in nurturing the student-athletes. Many of you go the extra mile, not just being a teacher or a coach but also being a mentor, providing extra lessons to the studentathletes to catch up with their homework.