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The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 award goes to Colin, May and Joseph Schooling

For their dedication and sacrifice in chasing - and attaining - the seemingly impossible dream of an Olympic gold for Singapore.

SINGAPORE, 6 February 2017 -  The family who endured more than a decade of unrelenting hard work and personal sacrifice to make Olympic history for Singapore have been named winners of The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award for 2016.

Colin and May Schooling, together with their son Joseph - Singapore's first Olympic gold medallist - received the award from Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a ceremony held today (6 February) at UBS Business University. DPM Tharman was Guest-of-Honour at the award ceremony.

Organised by The Straits Times and presented by global bank UBS, the Singaporean of the Year award seeks to honour extraordinary acts of goodwill, ingenuity or perseverance by Singaporeans that have made a positive impact. The annual award is now in its second year.

Joseph Schooling, 21, clinched Singapore's first-ever Olympic gold and set a new Games record with his 50.39-second timing in the men's 100m butterfly at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. His feat united the country in jubilant pride and reaffirmed Singapore's belief that small countries can make a huge impact. The contributions of his parents Colin, 69, and May, 61, were no less significant. They spent more than $1 million in all for their son’s education and training, and endured years apart as Joseph knuckled down in the United States to qualify for the Olympics. 

“This extraordinary labour of love by two parents for their only child inspired a pragmatic nation to reach for unimaginable dreams,” said the award citation for the Schoolings.

The Schoolings were chosen from among 12 finalists, ranging from social workers and blue-collar workers to trail-blazing entrepreneurs and sportsmen (see Annex A for the full list of finalists). The winners were selected by a panel of 15 judges including senior editors and correspondents from The Straits Times as well as local celebrities and community leaders such as social entrepreneur and activist Saleemah Ismail, youth leader David Hoe and chef Willin Low (see Annex B for the full list of judges).

As winners of the award, the Schoolings will get a trophy and $20,000 in cash, while the other finalists or groups of finalists will each receive $5,000 from UBS. All the finalists were chauffeured to and from the award ceremony by a fleet of Jaguar and Land Rover cars, generously sponsored by Jaguar-Land Rover.

In a video that The Straits Times recorded of the Schoolings for the award, May Schooling said: "There were no guarantees, no certainties, but because Joseph was so determined, and he was telling us that 'this is what I want, and if I want to go to the Olympics, I have to go'. And that is where the road to Rio started."

DPM Tharman, who was the Guest-of-Honour at the award ceremony, said, “Each of today’s finalists, like the Schoolings, are examples of Singaporeans whose character and personal efforts make us a country with a bigger spirit. They inspire everyone to do the same. In every walk of life, we can each find our own ways to contribute to this bigger spirit. These things catch on.”

Mr Warren Fernandez, Singapore Press Holdings' Editor-in-chief of the English, Malay and Tamil Media Group and Editor of The Straits Times, said the judges recognised that Joseph Schooling’s Olympic triumph would not have been possible without the sacrifices made by the whole family.

“Not many parents would have done what Colin and May Schooling did for their son – put in the massive effort and expense required for his rigorous training, spend years apart as Joseph trained in the US, and lobby for his deferment from National Service so he could compete in the Games – all because they believed in the seemingly impossible Olympic dream that Joseph conceived when he was just six years old,” said Mr Fernandez.

He added: “Deciding on the winner this year was a difficult process because we had a particularly strong crop of nominees. We shortlisted 12 finalists or groups of finalists, up from 10 last year. They represented a diverse range of Singaporeans who had each made a significant difference to the country or to their community in some way, from saving the lives of strangers to charting new paths for Singaporeans or inspiring others with their grit and resilience. Even though we can only have one winner for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year, the award honours all of the finalists and their important contributions to society.”

Mr Edmund Koh, Country Head UBS Singapore and Head Wealth Management, UBS APAC, said: "It is a great pleasure for UBS Singapore to once again work hand in hand with The Straits Times for the Singaporean of the Year Award 2016. This is our second year presenting this special award, which celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and honours 12 deserving finalists and groups of finalists who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference to society. Their admirable willpower and extraordinary acts of kindness demonstrate that Singapore is a country of high-achievers as well as gracious and compassionate citizens. Our congratulations to the Schoolings. They are truly a story of a Singaporean family who chased an extraordinary dream and brought all of Singapore together for a stunning moment of pride and joy when Joseph Schooling won the Olympic gold medal for Singapore." 


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For more information, please contact:

Deror Wong (Mr) 
Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications & CSR 
Singapore Press Holdings Limited 
DID: 6319 1226

Priscilla Tan (Ms)
Brand Manager, Editorial Projects Unit 

English, Malay, Tamil Media Group
Singapore Press Holdings Limited 
DID: +65 6319 5153

About The Straits Times

The Straits Times, the English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is the most-read newspaper in Singapore and is followed widely in the region for its comprehensive coverage of local, regional and world news, provided by its correspondents in 20 bureaus in major cities worldwide. 

Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times underwent a major redesign across all platforms in July 2015, when it celebrated its 170th anniversary. This revamp is part of its continuing efforts to refresh its products, maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing readers with news as it happens on all platforms, from its website at, Apple and Android apps to social media. 

The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and Wan-Ifra. Its revamped paper won a gold medal for overall newspaper design by the World Association of Newspaper at the Asian Media Awards in Manila in 2016.

About UBS in Singapore

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS's strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets.

UBS was the first Swiss bank to establish a presence in Singapore in 1970 and, following the merger of Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation in June 1998, UBS has enjoyed a reputation as a leading foreign financial institution in Singapore. Today UBS has over 2,300 employees across its wealth management, investment banking and asset management businesses.