SINGAPORE - Para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu was named The Straits Times' Athlete of the Year 2015 in a gala ceremony on Friday (Feb 26).
The 23-year-old, who suffers from muscular dystrophy which gradually causes her muscles to lose their ability to function, broke the world record in the S2 50m backstroke en route to gold in December's Asean Para Games in Singapore.
She edged out fellow nominees Shayna Ng (bowling), Shanti Pereira (athletics), Khairul Anwar (para-football) and 2014 winner Joseph Schooling (swimming) to become the second para-athlete to win the prestigious annual award.
Equestrain rider Laurentia Tan was the 2012 winner thanks to her two bronze medals at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Yip, who received her award from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the Raffles City Convention Centre, said: "I really wasn't expecting this. All the nominees are so amazing, I'm very surprised and I'd like to thank everyone for the support.
"I'm very grateful for this and I hope that in the years to come the support (for sport) will grow and we will do even better as One Team Singapore."
This is Yip's second nomination. Her first was for the inaugural 2008 award which went to swimmer Tao Li. Yip had won the 50m back S3 at the Beijing Paralympics to become the first Singaporean winner at the Games.
Said ST sports editor Marc Lim, who headed the 2015 award's 13-member judging panel: "The calibre of this year's nominees made picking a winner a very tough job for the judging panel. All of them are champions and sporting heroes in their own right. But inspiration is one of the core principles of the ST Athlete of the Year award and in 2015, the judges felt that there was no one more inspirational than Pin Xiu.
"Unlike other athletes who are getting stronger, her body is getting weaker. She competed against athletes who are less physically impaired than she is and yet not only managed to beat them, but also did so in a world record time. Pin Xiu is the epitome of an athlete who refuses to be beaten, by an opponent or her condition. And that is why she is the ST Athlete of the Year 2015."
The award, which is into its eighth edition, is sponsored by isotonic drink 100Plus. Since the award's inception in 2009, 100Plus and The Straits Times also give out the ST Star of the Month award to recognise breakthrough performances during the sporting year.