When 16 year old Delvin Goh made it to the news, many were surprised. The 2.03m tall Unity Secondary School student will be towering over most of his teammates and opponents in this year's Basketball League (ABL), which is set to kick off on 15 January 2012 against the Indonesian Warriors.
Delvin has landed a seven-month contract for one of eight coveted local slots with the Slingers - Singapore's first and only professional basketball outfit.
'Every young basketballer's dream in Singapore is to play for the Slingers,' he said to the local media before a training session. 'I still can't believe I'll be playing professional basketball. Earlier this year, I was just competing at the national schools.'
Five other local boys have snagged professional contracts with the Singapore Slingers for the upcoming season.
Ng Hanbin, 22 and Steven Khoo, 26, join the trio of Desmond Oh, 25, Wong Wei Long, 23, and Lim Shengyu, 21, who were first confirmed in November.
The inclusion of Delvin Goh marks a remarkable journey from school athlete to professional ranks. Not only did he go to the SEA Games as part of the Singapore national squad, he will also be the youngest professional in the ABL.
Desmond Oh, Wong Wei Long and Steven Khoo are entering their third ABL season while Shengyu and Hanbin made their Slinger debuts in 2011.
There are two remaining local spots on the roster. Centre Pathman Matialakan, who was in the Slinger squad for the first two seasons, has not been confirmed.
The Slingers have also signed up American imports Donald Little and Louis Graham while Filipino Donald Dulay will fill one of their two ASEAN slots. The Slingers are still in negotiation with another ASEAN player.
Each ABL team can have up to three international and two ASEAN imports but Slingers general manager Michael Johnson confirmed that he will stick with just four imports to ensure that one local will always be in the starting five.
Pang Xuejie, 18, is a rising young talent specialising in Table Tennis. Born 11 Mar 1993 in Singapore to parents who were also paddlers, Xuejie grew up with the sports deeply woven into his everyday life. While other kids were playing or watching TV, Xuejie juggled his time between school work and at the training halls practising table tennis.
All those hours honing his skills paid off for Xuejie when he was drafted into the national men’s squad at the tender age of 15. He parlayed his athletic talents into representing Singapore on many occasions. To name a few, Xuejie cut his teeth competing in the SEA Junior Table Tennis Championships, Kuwait Open, Italian Junior & Cadet Open, Malta Junior & Cadet Open, Egypt Junior & Cadet Open and the ITTF Pro Tour.
In recognition of his hard work, Xuejie has also been presented with the SNOC’s Meritorious Award for a few years running and the British Chamber of Commerce's annual "Dream" award on more than a few occasions.
As a member of Team Singapore, he was also one half of the team which smashed their way to Gold (Men’s Doubles) at the 26th SEA Games 2011 in the all-Singapore finals showdown against Yang Zi and Gao Ning. He considers this as the best moment he had thus far as an athlete.
"Before the match I was telling myself to play as usual with no burden of any sort because we were the underdogs. As the match went on and we got closer to winning, I was getting more and more nervous." Xuejie acknowledged.
Echoing his motto in life of "Never giving up when faced with difficulties", he handled the fight well and the men’s team went on to win the match. "After the final point, I couldn’t believe that we’ve done it and I was just overjoyed."
The Singapore Sports School alumnus is currently balancing studies (a Diploma in Sports & Leisure Management at Republic Polytechnic) along with trainings and competitions for the coming year.
Inspired by one of Singapore’s finest paddler, Feng Tian Wei, Xuejie sees himself pressing on to greater achievements in the future.
Depending on who you ask, there will be differing views on what were the ‘greatest moments’ in Singapore sports.
I would like to share what I saw as the top 10 special and inspirational moments in Sporting Singapore in 2011 - the moments that made our hair stand, stirred our soul, made us cry or inspired us to reach for the stars.
In no particular order…
10. When Singapore's netballers put up a credible showing on home ground against netball powerhouses during the World Netball championships
9. When 65,000 runners pounded the streets of Orchard Road, Sentosa, Chinatown and many other roads during the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore
8. When Singapore’s very own Courts Young Lions and Etoile FC raised funds, and Albirex Niigata and the S.League All Stars played a charity game that featured former World Cup footballer and Hidetoshi Nakata, to help Japan after the devastating earthquake, tsunamis and nuclear meltdown
7. When Vision 2030 was launched and the public was given the opportunity to co-create the future where sports plays a role in making us a happier, healthier and more cohesive society
6. When our football team won Gold at the Special Olympic
5. When we unearthed what may well be Singapore’s very own future Michael Phelps through swimmer Joseph Schooling and his mind boggling performance at the SEA Games 2011
4. When Fu Mingtian fought to win the nail biting final match to take gold at the 2011 SEA Games women’s badminton finals
3. When Singaporeans got behind Lions despite their 2-1 loss to China when they played in Kunming amidst a partisan and vociferous crowd
2. When 63-year-old bridge player Tan Yoke Lan inspired the nation through her determination when she postponed her chemotherapy treatment for cancer to represent Singapore at the SEA Games
1. When it was announced that Singapore will make a comeback at the Malaysia Cup
2012: the best is yet to be
Crystal ball gazing is not my forte, but if I were to look ahead at the major sporting milestones that will shape 2012, here are my top 10 (not in any particular order):
10. Catch any of the 11 home matches at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and be surprised and entertained as Singapore Slingers take on their ASEAN counterparts (Jan-May 2012)
9. The Malaysia Cup will surely bring back old memories, create new inspirations
8. The skyline of Kallang will spot a new look when the basic framework for the dome of the new national stadium in the Sports Hub is completed
7. More details of the SEA Games 2015 will be revealed as Singapore prepares to host the region’s most spectacular multi sport event.
6. The inaugural Singapore National Gamers (September 2012) will be held - the games that will cater to everyone from all ages, races and estates.
5. Running crazy Singapore will revel once again in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore in December.
4. To understand how active Singaporeans are in sports participation, the 5 year sports participation survey results will be revealed.
3. The annual OCBC Cycle Singapore (March 2012) will plays host to a three-day Cycling event and Lifestyle Village as well as a carnival.
2. The recommendations of Vision 2030 will be released. With this blueprint, Singaporeans will be able to enrich their lives in more ways than one through sports.
1. London 2012 Olympics (Jul-Aug 2012) - Singapore’s athletes will once again give us reason to be riveted to our seats, shouting ourselves hoarse and making us believe that we can punch way above our weight.