Indra among TNP School Sports Star Award top 10
If Muhd Indra Moraga goes on to be crowned the boys' winner of The New Paper School Sports Star Award, he has one person to thank.
The Hong Kah Secondary School's C Division footballer credits his father, 53-year-old Muhd Idris Basirun, for helping him overcome insecurity and ostracism when he was younger.
His father withdrew him from a local private youth football academy when he realised that his son was struggling to make an impression.
He then scoured tirelessly for other football opportunities, finally finding him a spot in S.League club Warriors FC's youth set-up, where Indra blossomed.
From a forgotten player when he was 12, the 14-year-old is now a defensive lynchpin for his school.
He was nominated for the TNP School Sports Star Award and, when voting for the first round ended on Tuesday, Indra garnered a whopping 2,441 votes - the most among the 23 nominated student-athletes and way ahead of the 1,348 votes cast for second-placed John Christopher of Unity Secondary School in the boys' section.
"Winning the award would mean that I've finally made my father proud after all that he's done for me," said Indra.
"It would prove that I've been doing well and that I've been going on the right path."
Indra's family also campaigned intensely for his nomination, with his parents going on Facebook to help in their son's push for the award, while his brothers did their part by persuading their friends to vote.
But Indra thinks that he stands only an outside chance of winning the boys' award.
"I didn't really expect to get so many votes because some of the other nominees have equally impressive credentials," he told The New Paper yesterday. "But I have to thank my family for their support, my parents especially."
Along with Indra, John (basketball), Chia Shing Kee (table tennis), Marcus Tang (football) and Aizat Jufrie (gymnastics) make up this year's top five boys.
The boys were picked based on the votes and other criteria, such as the athletes' contributions to their schools.
As for the girls, St Margaret's Secondary School netballer Charlene Ong leads the way with 2,009 votes.
The 15-year-old was pleasantly surprised when TNP broke the news to her yesterday.
"I feel honoured, and also a little shocked. I have to thank my family and friends, as they really went out of their way to help me," she said.
"My mother told her colleagues about it and asked them to vote, and so did my father."
Charlene will be joined by fellow netballer Alexandra Stewart, hockey player Arfynna Shakira Sariman, shooter Chua Shin Yoong and gymnast Tong Kah Mun.
The 10 boys and girls will now compete against one other for the coveted School Sports Star Award.
Two winners - one boy and one girl - will be decided by a panel of judges and public votes.
The votes from the previous round to decide the top 10 will not be counted.
Voting starts today and closes on Nov 11 at 11.59pm. Visit tnp.sg/sss to vote for your favourite student-athlete.
(Basketball) Unity Secondary
The 1.62m-tall shooting guard was once teased for being too short for the sport, but helped his school win the B Division title.
(Gymnastics) Raffles Institution
The 18-year-old decided to defer his A Levels by a year to focus on training for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
CHIA SHING KEE
(Table tennis) Raffles Institution
The 14-year-old went through surgery on his hip when he was 10 and defied doctor's orders to return to training early because he missed it so much.
(Football) Tanjong Katong Secondary
The 14-year-old suffered at least four injuries in 18 months, but helped his school do well in the B Division competition.
MUHD INDRA MORAGA
(Football) Hong Kah Secondary
Once considered not good enough for the sport, the vice-captain helped his team retain their C Division title, and outperformed most of his peers in the mid-year examinations, despite being promoted from the Normal (Academic) to Express stream only this year.
(Netball) Singapore Sports School
The school captain led her team to the C Division final in April, when they lost to CHIJ (Toa Payoh). She also worked hard in her studies - moving from the Normal (Academic) stream to the Express stream.
TONG KAH MUN
(Gymnastics) Nanyang Junior College
Kah Mun swept all four individual categories - hoop, ball, clubs and ribbons - at the Schools' National Rhythmic Gymnastics championships to finish as the top individual overall.
ARFYNNA SHAKIRA SARIMAN
(Hockey) Crescent Girls' School
Arfynna led her team, said to be one of the weakest in the school's history, to their first win at the Nationals in 14 years this year when Crescent lifted the B Division title.
CHUA SHIN YOONG
(Shooting) Catholic Junior College
Shin Yoong gave up the sport in secondary school because of a lack of interest, but picked it up again after she was assigned the same air pistol in her junior college.
(Netball) St Margaret's Secondary
Charlene's speed and aggression on court helped her school secure a top-four spot in the National and Zonal Championships, but has been described as reserved, shy and mature off the court.