ST Athlete of the Year: It's team over self for 2018 winner Muhammad Jaris Goh

SINGAPORE – Even after a stellar 2018, national bowler Muhammad Jaris Goh could not have dreamt he would receive three awards in nine days.

But, on Thursday (Feb 21) at the Shangri-La Hotel, he completed a hat-trick of gongs when he picked up The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award.

Last week, he was named the Singapore Bowling Federation’s (SBF) Bowler of the Year, before becoming one of four Singapore Sports School alumni to receive the Moo Soon Chong Outstanding Student-Athlete Award.

The 24-year-old Republic Polytechnic student could not stop grinning after picking up his latest accolade.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” said Goh, when he sat down with ST about an hour later. “When my name was announced, I thought, ‘No way!’. After I got back to my seat, (SBF) president Jessie Phua even came up to me and said, ‘Yes Jaris, this is real’.”

Mouth agape, Goh wore a stunned expression as he made his way up to the stage to receive the ST Athlete of the Year award from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu in the presence of 190 guests.

He had been nominated alongside Yu Mengyu (table tennis), Toh Wei Soong (para-swimming), Martina Veloso (shooting) and Joseph Schooling (swimming) for the prestigious annual award, which is the only honour that recognises both able-bodied and disabled athletes.

It was Goh’s leadership and drive that fired a young Singapore men’s team to a first-ever medal at the World Men’s Championships and a long-overdue medal at the Asian Games, that gave him the edge.

The Republic’s men’s team won a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Palembang last August, a first in the event since 2006. The achievement was even more remarkable considering Goh was the only member of the six-man team who had Asian Games experience.

The team then won an unprecedented bronze medal at the world championships in Hong Kong in December. Also, Goh reached the round of 32 in the men’s individual event at the world meet, but insists he enjoys bowling as part of a team more.

“Standing on the podium with five other men feels more significant than standing just alone,” he said, dedicating the win to his teammates. “I treasure their friendship, camaraderie and support.”

Phua, who has been at the helm of SBF since 2002, was delighted by Goh’s achievement.

“I am over the moon with Jaris winning this very prestigious award,” she said. “It was totally deserved, for his ability to gel and lift his team members to punch way above their weight. I admire his dedication, passion, perseverance and tenacity.”

Goh’s ecstatic celebration in Palembang – mid-air, arms outstretched, with a euphoric expression – after his strike won Singapore the medal was one of the most eye-catching photos in Singapore sport last year.

While many figured it was simply a spontaneous expression, Goh yesterday lifted the lid on the famous picture.

“There was a little planning that went into that,” he said, with a cheeky grin. “The night before, in the hostel I was talking to my teammates Darren (Ong) and Alex (Chong) and said, ‘If we really medal, the last shot I’ll throw, I’ll do a CR7-style (referring to Juventus and Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo) celebration’. True enough, it happened!

“I guess that ‘star jump’ might be my signature move now.”

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