Shanti Pereira, Darren Ong win top accolades at Sports Awards, Latest Team Singapore News - The New Paper
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Shanti Pereira, Darren Ong win top accolades at Sports Awards

It was a big night for athletics at the Singapore Sports Awards on June 3, with national sprinter Shanti Pereira and her coach Luis Cunha named Sportswoman of the Year and Coach of the Year for their feats in 2023.

Pereira, who won the award for the first time, also became the first track and field athlete to receive the top distinction at the annual ceremony since discus thrower James Wong was named Sportsman of the Year in 2004.

The last track and field athlete to win the Sportswoman of the Year award was middle-distance runner Kandasamy Jayamani, who won the accolade in 1981 and 1977.

Pereira, who was unable to attend the ceremony held at Orchard Hotel as she is in Europe preparing for the Olympics, emerged as the winner ahead of kayaker Stephenie Chen, wushu exponent Kimberly Ong, indoor skydiver Kyra Poh, swimmer Letitia Sim and bowler Cherie Tan.

The 27-year-old said: “It’s a huge honour to be named Sportswoman of the Year, it’s my first time ever being nominated, let alone win.

“I’m very thankful to my coach. He is extremely deserving of his Coach of the Year award, I’m so glad he is being recognised for his efforts in my journey, as well as the impact he has made for Singapore athletics as a whole and my entire support system for getting me here.”

Pereira started 2023 with a historic sprint double at the Cambodia SEA Games in May, when she won the women’s 100m and 200m titles, before repeating the feat at the Asian Athletics Championships two months later.

She then made history as the first Singaporean runner to reach the semi-finals of the world championships in Budapest, booking her ticket to the Paris Olympics in the process.

At the Hangzhou Asian Games, she capped off her year with an impressive showing by bagging the 200m crown along with a 100m silver.

She also rewrote the 100m national mark six times and the 200m record four times.

Reflecting on last season, Pereira said: “2023 launched me into a new era in my career. I’m privileged to do the sport I love every day, and I hope to continue to do myself, my coach, my support system and my country proud for as long as my legs can carry.”

The Sportsman of the Year award also had a first-time winner in Darren Ong, who is the first bowler to pick up the accolade since Remy Ong in 2007.

The other nominees for the award were Peter Gilchrist (cue sports), Ryan Lo (sailing) and Jowen Lim (wushu).

A breakthrough year in 2023 culminated in Darren claiming the men’s singles title at the International Bowling Federation world championships in Kuwait last October, the first for a Singaporean since Remy won the event in 2006.

Darren also won two bronzes at the world championships – in the men’s doubles with Jaris Goh and in the all events. He had bagged his first individual international title at the Philippine International Open in May, just months before his triumph on the world stage.

The 28-year-old said: “This (award) is not just for myself but my family and the entire bowling community... It’s a privilege to be the one to win the award because it’s been a long time since the award has been won by a bowler.

“It’s definitely been a breakout year for me and a lot of the achievements haven’t quite sunk in yet, especially this award.”

Organised by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Sport Singapore (SportSG), the Singapore Sports Awards honours outstanding sporting achievements of Singaporeans who have done well at the national and international levels.

The event, which is supported by the Tote Board, was attended by SNOC president Grace Fu and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.

Two-time kitefoiling champion Max Maeder bagged the Sportsboy of the Year award for the third time in a row, while wushu world champion Zeanne Law picked up the Sportsgirl of the Year accolade.

“I’m completely ecstatic – it’s completely different when I get to be here and see so many people support me on my journey and so many people support athletes on their journeys,” said Max, who noted that one of the highlights of the night was speaking with 2016 Olympic champion Joseph Schooling.

“It instils you with such inspiration and a will to continue to do what you love to do and I hope that all the athletes experience the same thing.”

Law, 18, was honoured that her achievements were recognised, adding: “It’s a testament for all the hard work, all the struggles that I’ve gone through last year and I believe it will motivate me to push even harder this year.”

SINGAPORE SPORTSSINGAPORE ATHLETESSingapore National Olympic CouncilSport Singapore