Schooling is Sportsman of the Year a third time
Schooling bags third Sportsman of the Year crown as elite athletes get set for Rio
Feted, toasted, hyped and skyped; even as a record 232 athletes were lauded, there was an unmistakable buzz in the air at the Singapore Sports Awards last night at the Raffles City Convention Centre.
Seven out of the 16 athletes in the Sportsman, Sportswoman, Sportsboy and Sportsgirl of the Year categories (four nominees each) are bound for the Olympics, and the event carried the vibe of a grand send-off for Rio 2016.
Swimming landed three big gongs, as Olympic medal-hopeful Joseph Schooling and coach Sergio Lopez successfully defended their Sportsman of the Year and Coach of the Year awards, respectively.
It was Schooling's third win after his first in 2012, while Quah Zheng Wen added another Sportsboy of the Year to his 2012 triumph.
While table tennis has delivered medals at the last two Games - Beijing 2008 and London 2012 - it is evident that the paddlers are no longer the only ones regarded as potential Olympic winners.
Singapore National Olympic Council secretary general Chris Chan said: "It definitely bodes well for Team Singapore in Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and beyond that we are seeing diversity in Olympic-medal prospects.
"Schooling can beat anyone including Michael Phelps on his day, shooter Jasmine Ser (nominated for Sportswoman of the Year, won by bowler Shayna Ng) has broken new barriers by medalling at World Cup events and can surprise with the new format of scores being reset for the finals.
"Another Sportsman of the Year nominee, sailor Colin Cheng, has already placed 15th four years ago and sailing is looking at top-10 finishes this year.
"These athletes, along with the paddlers... have Olympic experience and they are of a good sporting age, so they can still get better.
"It is part of a national progression for Singapore to reach this stage. Like Iceland at the ongoing European Championship, we are showing that it is possible for smaller nations to do well in sports on a global stage.
"Thanks to sports science, government and parental support, we have made advances but, in the end, it's all about the athletes who have to make the sacrifices and commitment in their respective sports to get to where they are."
Schooling's world championship 100m butterfly bronze played a big part in his third Sportsman of the Year triumph.
The future of Singapore's Olympic sports also looks bright, with young sailors Jodie Lai, Daniel Hung, James Koh, Daniel Yazid and Koh Yi Nian winning the Sportsboy/Sportsgirl Team of the Year for their team racing title win at last year's Optimist World Championship.
Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin said: "With more success at the highest level, young athletes will now believe more fervently that they too can do well on the world stage.
"I am pleased and proud that Singapore sport is beginning to exemplify the spirit of excellence of our country.
"The medal contenders for this edition know what their targets are and there is no need to put more pressure on them, while I'm sure those eyeing Tokyo have already started preparations, knowing that it often takes more than just one Olympic cycle of work to be successful."
After a record-breaking SEA Games haul of 259 medals last year, Team Singapore are focused on another special outing, this time at the Olympics.
"None of us wants to be mediocre," said Schooling.
"Other countries are putting us in the medal mix and that says a lot. We have good athletes with talent and potential and I hope our success can rub off on each other."
Singapore's chef de mission for the Olympic Games, Low Teo Ping, is "optimistic" his team of up to 24 athletes can add to the Republic's overall haul of two silvers and two bronzes.
He said: "We have moved ahead of just banking on a single sport, and accolades such as the Singapore Sports Awards tonight will spur more athletes to do better.
"From the feedback I got, our Olympians are on track in their preparations and I am optimistic about our medal prospects."
Other countries are putting us in the medal mix and that says a lot. We have good athletes with talent and potential and I hope our success can rub off on each other.
— Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling
SINGAPORE SPORTS AWARDS HONOUR ROLL
Sportsman of the Year
Joseph Schooling (Swimming)
Sportswoman of the Year
Shayna Ng (Bowling)
Sportsboy of the Year
Quah Zheng Wen (Swimming)
Sportsgirl of the Year
Joey Yeo (Bowling)
Coach of the Year
Sergio Lopez (Swimming)
Team of the Year (Event)
Shayna Ng, Cherie Tan and New Hui Fen (Bowling trios team at the World Women’s Championships)
Team of the Year (Team Sport)
Netball — 28th SEA Games team
Sportsboy/Sportsgirl Team of the Year (Event)
Jodie Lai, Daniel Hung, James Koh, Daniel Yazid and Koh Yi Nian (Sailing — Optimist World Championships)
Best Sports Event of the Year (Local)
Great Eastern Women’s Run 2015
Best Sports Event of the Year (International)
BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global
Most Inspiring Sports
Story of the Year “On his travels, patience is the greatest weapon” by Rohit Brijnath for The Sunday Times (The Straits Times)
Special Award for Fortitude
Zhu Xiaoping (Gymnastics)
Special Award for Sportsmanship
Ashley Liew (Athletics)