Bernie, 15, is Sailor of the Year
15-year-old bags Sailor of the Year award, but stays modest ahead of SEA Games
His only major accomplishment to date is a gold medal in the Byte CII event at last year's Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in China.
But Bernie Chin has become one of Singapore's sailors of the future, for the manner in which he won the regatta and his tenacity aboard his dinghy.
Yesterday, the 15-year-old was crowned Sailor of the Year at the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) Annual Awards, less than two months before he competes in the Under-19 category of the Laser Radial at June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
Bernie (right) is among the list of athletes selected for the Games across 18 sailing events.
The teenager suffered a disastrous opening day at the YOG.
But, after a dreadful first two races, he recovered and finished in the top five of the remaining six races to bag the gold and earn a place in Singapore sporting history as the first gold medallist of the Games.
"I didn't expect to get the award, but more importantly, I have to thank all the people who have helped me get here," said Bernie, who paid tribute to his parents, coaches and school for their support.
"I'm excited to be competing at the SEA Games. Racing at home will be special, with all the home support."
The Raffles Institution student, who took up the sport at the age of nine, is looking forward to racing on familiar waters - at the National Sailing Centre in the East Coast where he has trained for the past six years.
But he immediately played down any talk of a gold medal.
"Medalling would be a bonus, but what matters more is what I learn from the competition," said the mild-mannered teenager, whose ultimate goal is to race at the Olympics.
"It's the process that matters most."
Sailing chief Ben Tan said Bernie's success and humility are results of the federation's development programme, which focuses on character building.
"It's all about resilience, humility and hard work; our sailors inculcate that through their training," he told The New Paper on the sidelines of the awards ceremony, which was graced by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. "It's not just Bernie who has these attributes, the others as well. We don't put all our eggs in one basket. We build a system."
Hosting the SEA Games again after 22 years, the Republic's athletes are hoping to break the record 50 golds won in 1993 - and sailing is widely tipped to be among the biggest contributors.
Tan, however, declined to give a specific medal target, and repeated his stance that the sailors will use the Games as a stepping stone for bigger competitions.
"We have a lot of depth in our ranks," he added.
"Look at Victoria (Chan). She beat Elizabeth Yin in the trials - and Liz is a world champion. So, for us, it's more about quality than (medal) numbers. The medals will take care of themselves."