HE HAD finished his Math paper way ahead of the allocated two hours, but was not allowed to leave the exam hall early.
And when the time was up, Joseph Schooling rushed out and made a beeline for his mobile phone.
The 16-year-old, a Bolles School student in Florida, then found a text message from his father Colin, telling him that he had won the Sportsman of the Year award at last Tuesday’s Singapore Sports Awards.
He told The New Paper over the phone after his exams: “I am really happy to have won. Being only 16, this award is going to push me to do even better.
“This accolade will give me more confidence ahead of the London Olympics (in July),” added the butterfly specialist, who is now the youngest athlete ever to receive this accolade.
Bowler Lim Zhong was the previous youngest athlete to receive the award at 18 in 2000.
His mother May, who collected the award on his behalf at the Raffles City Convention Centre last night, said: “This means a lot to him – probably just below qualifying for the Olympics – and will spur him to aspire for greater heights.”
Asked by TNP where in their Marine Parade home would she place Joseph’s latest trophy, she said: “I don’t know yet. We’ll probably group the medals to make space for it, but he’ll have to do it himself when he comes back.”
The Sportswoman of the Year award went to shuttler Fu Mingtian, who became the first Singaporean to win a women’s singles gold at last year’s South-east Asia Games in Jakarta.
The Sportswoman of the Year is shuttler Fu Mingtian.
She said: “I wasn’t that confident that I would win because the other nominees are very strong in their field, but in my heart I wished the winner is me.
“I was holding my breath when the announcement was made, and was very surprised and happy – as well as relieved – that I had won.”
Asked if the award will make up for her non-selection for this year’s Olympics, she said: “I wouldn’t use that phrase, but it would give me a lot of motivation to work harder for my upcoming tournaments – including next month’s Li Ning Singapore Open – and the next Olympics.”
The 21-year-old’s teammate Gu Juan was chosen ahead of her for the women’s singles slot in London.
Swimming dominated the rest of the top awards for athletes with Quah Zheng Wen (Sportsboy of the Year) and Amanda Lim (Sportsgirl of the Year) being honoured.
Both swimmers were understandably happy with their wins, adding that the awards would give them added confidence in their attempts to make it for the London Games.
Last year’s Coach of the Year William Woo made it two years in a row, collecting his trophy and mock cheque from President Tony Tan Keng Yam .
The national bowling coach said: “I am surprised, proud and very happy, but I must emphasise it’s not just about me.
“I work with a team of coaches and the bowlers have delivered when it counted.
“I was actually very sad that the women’s team didn’t clinch the Team of the Year award. I’d rather lose my award to see them get theirs.”
This article was first published in The New Paper.