Nine individuals and one community group were awarded at the Singapore Disability Sports Awards 2019, which was held on 6 August evening at the Carlton Hotel.
Excitement was palpable at the event, which many athletes and officials had looked forward to for a long time. The last Sports Awards had been held more than a decade ago in 2008. Since then, SDSC had only given out a set of Outstanding and Meritorious Achievement awards in 2014, as part of its 40th anniversary.
The 2019 Awards saw a mix of familiar and new faces stepping up to the stage. Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu, 27, who last won the Sportsgirl of the Year in 2008 when she was 16 years old, scooped up the Sportswoman of the Year award, while her pool junior, Straits Times Athlete of the Year 2018 nominee and Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, Toh Wei Soong, 21, celebrated his first Sports Award – Sportsboy of the Year.
Athletics was another big winner for the night, apart from Swimming. Sportsgirl of the Year went to 21-year-old sprinter Maisarah Binte Mohamed Hassan, who won two silvers at the quadrennial Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) World Games in 2018. Sportsman of the Year went to field athlete Muhammad Diroy Bin Noordin.
Jovin Tan, Paralympian sailor who won Sportman of the Year in 2007, was nominated for Coach (Developmental) this time. Tan, however, lost out on the award to Hansen Bay, Goalball coach who was also nominated for the Community Impact (Events and Initiatives) category for his work behind Goalball (Singapore), a society that seeks to promote the sport of goalball as an inclusive activity.
This was the first time the Coach of the Year award was split into two categories – Coach (High Performance) and Coach (Developmental). Alex Ang, who coached Toh Wei Soong and was a protégé of swimming legend and coach Ang Peng Siong, followed his mentor’s footsteps to win the Coach (High Performance) award. Coach Ang Peng Siong had won Coach of the Year in 2006.
The Community Impact (Events and Initiatives) award eventually went to Amputee Support Group, which was started by patients and physiotherapists of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, for their efforts in using sports as a form of rehabilitative therapy for amputees. The healthcare industry also scored another victory, with the award of Community Impact (Volunteering) going to psychologist Wendy Choh.
Choh had spent the past 15 years volunteering as a national classifier specializing in intellectual impairment, and sharing her expertise with the International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairment to support its global classification needs. Classification is a process of categorising persons with disabilities using medical and field assessments to ensure that they are competing with others of similar functionalities for fairness.
Team of the Year went to a Boccia team comprising athletes Toh Sze Ning, Nurulasyiqah Binte Mohammad Taha, and Faye Lim, and their competition partners Chew Zi Qun, Nur Azizah Bte Ahmad Rumzi, and Lim Boon Ghee. The team had earned a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games. Faye Lim’s entire family was present to celebrate the win with her, including her mother, younger brother, and father Lim Boon Ghee who trained with her as her competition partner. Boccia is a sport designed for persons with severe physical disabilities.
A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Taufik Abdullah, who received the posthumous award on behalf of his father, Frankie Thanapal Sinniah, BBM, PBM. Frankie was one of the first two athletes with disabilities who represented Singapore and won an international sports event in 1975. Thereafter, he spent a large part of his life advocating equality for persons with disabilities in sports, including heading SDSC as its President and major game missions as Chef de Mission (CDM). He was the CDM for Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, where Yip Pin Xiu and Laurentia Tan won the Republic’s first Paralympic medals. Frankie continued to volunteer for SDSC till the day he passed away in 2012. He was then the Secretary General of the Singapore National Paralympic Council.
The event, organised by the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC), was presented by Haw Par Corporation as part of its 2019 corporate social responsibility initiative. At the event, Mr A.K. Han, Executive Director of Haw Par Corporation, handed a cheque of $120,000 to Mr Kevin Wong, President of SDSC.
Besides the Awards, the donation will support Boccia trainings and competitions, and a Sports Bursary programme to help persons with disabilities from low-income backgrounds to pursue sports. Haw Par had started the Bursary programme in 2018.
“As a sponsor of SDSC since 2015, we have witnessed the resilience and spirit of the athletes and the dedication of the community of coaches, caregivers and volunteers behind them. They are an inspiration to our society. We are pleased to sponsor the Singapore Disability Sports Awards that accord to them the recognition they deserve,” commented Wee Ee Lim, CEO of Haw Par Corporation Limited.
At the event, the SDSC also promised the crowd that it would continue to hold the Awards annually from 2019. Mr Kevin Wong shared, “Besides supporting a steadily growing disability sports landscape in Singapore, the Awards will be a reminder that neither such recognition nor inclusion should be an afterthought. The SDSC also hopes that more National Sports Associations (NSAs) will start to develop para disciplines in the future and join in the celebration.”
Ms Kelly Fan, Executive Director of SDSC, shared, “The Awards have always been something that athletes look forward to. There is a deep level of respect for the Awards because it provides them some form of equal recognition of their identity as athletes, and not persons with disabilities. They are actually very competitive about this. At the end of the day, it’s a celebration of everyone’s hard work. We are thus very thankful to Haw Par Corporation for supporting us to bring the Awards back, and developing new awards for coaches, sports assistants, volunteers and organisations.”