(Photo credit: Singapore Disability Sports Council / Calvin Teoh)
An exceptional array of 14 awards was presented at the Singapore Disability Sports Awards (SDSA) 2023, acknowledging both community contributions and outstanding high-performance achievements. Notably, para swimmers emerged as frontrunners, with defending double world champion Yip Pin Xiu securing the prestigious title of Sportswoman of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. Commonwealth Games silver medalist Toh Wei Soong, who had improved on his 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze, added to the night’s acclaim by clinching his second consecutive Sportsman of the Year award.
The ceremony, held this year on 15 November at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre, has been organised by the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) since 1996 to honour the achievements and contributions made by outstanding individuals and groups in disability sports.
The Team of the Year award went to 2022 ASEAN Para Games boccia gold medalists Aloysius Gan and Toh Sze Ning, as well as their competition partners Kagan Gan, who is also Aloysius’ father, and Chew Zi Qun. This marked the second consecutive year that 17-year-old Aloysius has clinched the Team award, this time with a different partner, highlighting his exceptional consistency in performance.
Wong Zhi Wei, a Year 1 student at National University of Singapore who claimed double gold at the 2022 ASEAN Para Games in the 50m and 100m Freestyle S13 events, earned the prestigious title of Sportsboy of the Year—an extraordinary achievement, especially considering his kidney transplant just three years prior, as he continues to manage his health while on medication. Breaking new ground for deaf athletes, bowler Adelia Naomi Yokoyama, who amassed eight medals at the Deaflympics 2022 and SEA Deaf Games 2022, made history as she secured the title of Sportsgirl of the Year.
The dedication and guidance of coaches were also lauded at the event. Former national bowler William Woo Nam Fatt claimed the Coach of the Year (High Performance) award for his stellar contribution to the deaf bowling team’s successes at the SEA Deaf Games 2022 and Deaflympics 2022. Additionally, para table tennis coach Goh Chyuan was honoured as Coach of the Year (Development) for leading the para table tennis team to a series of victories at the ASEAN Para Games 2022.
This year’s event introduced several new awards to honour community contributions, such as ‘Coach of the Year (Community)’, ‘Spirit of Sport (Male / Female / Team)’, and the splitting of the ‘Event/Initiative of the Year’ award into ‘Event of the Year’ and ‘Community Changemaker of the Year’.
“As Singapore’s disability sports scene grows, it’s crucial to acknowledge that our para athletes’ incredible achievements are thanks to the whole community’s support. Likewise, the rising awareness of their successes has boosted the overall support for our community. We aim to highlight these combined contributions to showcase the diverse successes individuals with disabilities can achieve in para sports and the varied roles stakeholders can play in empowering these achievements,” shared Ms Kelly Fan, Executive Director of SDSC.
The 2023 awards rigorously evaluated the achievements and contributions of nominees spanning from April 2022 to March 2023. This year, the nominations surged to 80, marking a notable increase from the previous year’s 30. The nominees represented a diverse range, spanning from 12 to 76 years old. Mr. Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Social and Family Affairs, emphasised the formidable challenge faced by the judging panel. He noted the panel’s struggle in selecting winners for each award due to the exceptional talent and unwavering dedication showcased within the stories of every nominee.
The Spirit of Sport (Male) award was eventually claimed by wheelchair basketballer Dexter Goh, a stalwart in the sport for more than two decades, who, at the age of 65, continues to play the sport weekly. Meanwhile, the Spirit of Sport (Female) award honoured boccia player and Paralympian Nurulasyiqah Taha. Despite facing vaccination-related travel restrictions, she persisted in self-training and channelled her disappointment into coaching others in the sport, showcasing resilience and selflessness.
Earning the Spirit of Sport (Team) accolade, the Singapore Rollers, a powerchair football team, exhibited remarkable perseverance despite enduring severe health conditions requiring arduous transfers and travel for the sport. They also overcame initial hurdles, including the lack of specialised equipment and suitable locations, to play the sport they love, epitomising resilience in the face of adversity.
Recognised as the Coach of the Year (Community), Lanny Kwok, Vice Principal of Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School (West), has been a fervent advocate for boccia for over two decades. Her efforts extend beyond the school, actively promoting boccia to individuals with disabilities in the wider community. Recently, she spearheaded the expansion of a new boccia community programme at Pasir Ris Sports Centre, underscoring her enduring commitment to the sport’s growth and accessibility.
The Community Changemaker of the Year award was claimed by Playbuddies, a ground-up initiative launched in 2016, dedicated to providing the joy of sports free to children with disabilities every weekend. This volunteer-driven program introduces a specific sport to participants for four to eight weeks before transitioning to another, fostering a diverse sports experience.
The Volunteer of the Year title went to Yeo Jia Chyang, a dedicated senior volunteer at Special Olympics Singapore who has committed weekly to training members with intellectual impairment in swimming, come rain or shine, for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the Event of the Year award recognised Run for Inclusion 2022, organised by grassroot group RunningHour. The event had seen more than 2000 participants of all abilities run side by side at the Singapore Turf Club in December 2022.
This year’s awards coincided with the 50th anniversary of the SDSC, which was formed by the then Ministry of Social Affairs in 1973 to promote sports for persons with disabilities in Singapore. Nearly 300 contributors and supporters within the disability sports sector were in attendance at Wednesday’s award ceremony to commemorate the golden jubilee. Notable figures included Mr. Raja Singh, one of the first Paralympians to represent Singapore in athletics in 1988; Ms. Theresa Goh, the first Singaporean world record holder in para sport, and Mr Ismail Hussain, the first blind bowling world champion for Singapore. Young athletes like 10-year-old Ryan Chandru, the youngest medalist of the National Boccia Championships 2023, were also present, signifying a continuum of excellence across generations.
During the event, a time capsule, holding aspirations for para sports over the next 50 years, was sealed by Mr. Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, who served as the guest of honour.
For the 9th year in a row, Haw Par Corporation reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to improving the access of persons with disabilities to sports, by generously presenting a $120,000 contribution to the SDSC. Notably, this marks the fifth consecutive year that Haw Par Corporation has backed the SDSA, aiding its revival in 2019 after an 11-year hiatus. Beyond the awards, Haw Par’s substantial donation secures enhanced training and competitive opportunities for the Boccia team, fostering their development and promoting Boccia as an inclusive sport within the broader community. The donation also helps to sustain essential national youth competitions in athletics and swimming, crucial for identifying and nurturing emerging para-sports talents by SDSC.
“Since our partnership with the SDSC began in 2015, we’ve been privileged to witness the unwavering resilience of our para athletes and dedication of the entire community, including coaches, caregivers, and volunteers. Their indomitable spirit serves as a profound inspiration to our society. Supporting the SDSC is our honour, allowing us to give these remarkable individuals the well-deserved recognition they have earned. We’re equally committed to ensuring more persons with disabilities can access a better quality of life through sports,” stated Mr. Wee Ee Lim, President & CEO of Haw Par Corporation Limited.
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