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‘A Simple, Ordinary Guy’

Scott Ang Yiqiang, in military uniform, with his family and Singapore Sports School Principal Deborah Tan (fourth from left), Triathlon Coach Eugene Lee (third from right) and Mentor and Chinese Teacher Tok Gee Hong (second from right), at the President’s Scholarship Award Presentation Ceremony at the Istana on 16 August 2013.

President’s Scholar Scott Ang Yiqiang said he never thought that he was anything special, growing up. In fact, he confessed to struggling with IQ tests and always seemed to read slower than his peers, had trouble spelling, had teachers give up on him, and even in sports which was his niche, “never seemed to come up above the rest.”

Scott, 19, from Singapore Sports School’s graduating class of 2009, said effort and training gave him enough to get into some finals, but there were always faster, stronger, more talented athletes.

“I felt destined for mediocrity, and thoughts of flying off to a place like Cambridge to study Law, or receiving a scholarship such as this did not even qualify as dreams – they were impossibilities, better left to geniuses and prodigies, which I most definitely am not,” said Scott, in a note to his well-wishers posted on his Facebook page on 19 August 2013.

Despite numerous medals, success in studies, receiving the Sword of Honour in Officer Cadet School, and now the President’s Scholarship, Scott said he found himself thinking that these are the results of extraordinary opportunities and sometimes unjustified belief thrust onto a simple, ordinary guy.

He explained: “I was born no better than the 26 soldiers I now lead, or the hundreds who raced with me, or the thousands who took the same exams as I did, and went to schools better or worse than mine.

“Without my mother taking me to the pool every evening for the 10 years before Singapore Sports School, without my ACS (Independent) Students’ Council teachers somehow believing I was the best man to lead the Council, without my Sports School English teacher grooming me after seeing the spark for public speaking in the boy who would shiver when making a presentation to the class, who would I be today? These are the people who have made me who I am. Their belief, their passion, their insistence, their leaps of faith, their fragile necks that they stuck under the guillotine for me, and more than once felt the graze of the blade.”

From Singapore Sports School, Scott particularly mentioned Miss Ong Siok Cheng, the late Mr Roger Poulier, Mr Tok Gee Hong, Swimming Coach Eugene Chia and Triathlon Coach Eugene Lee as those who helped him in his journey,

Scott said as a President’s Scholar, people are bound to have great expectations of him – and he knows he will not always be able to live up to their expectations, and in fact, he will continue to learn from those around him.

“You will give me tasks and wait for me to hand you perfection. You will ask a crowd and expect me to stand up and answer. You will contemplate a problem and look to me for the solution. The same is true to varying degrees for any scholar. But when you do such things and realise that it is imperfection I deliver, that sometimes I am afraid to voice my opinion, that I don’t always have a solution, I ask that you remember I am only human, and will not pretend to be anything more.

“I am not making excuses in fear of falling short of expectations. No. What I am saying is, as supposedly the ‘top’ talent in the country, my promise to you is that I will not let it get to my head that I am beyond flaw, and more importantly beyond learning, beyond apologising, beyond humility. I have learnt as many lessons from my soldiers as I have from my OCS instructors. Everyone is special in his own way, and everyone has something to teach. I will continue learning.”

Scott said that as he navigates his way through life, he hopes that he, too, can teach others.

“I do not delude myself. I know that there must be something in my outlook of life that has inspired so much confidence in me. While staying humble, I also promise that I will remain true to myself.

“I was chosen for being me, and the added pressure of a President’s Scholarship will not change who I am and what I believe in. I will continue to dream with the naiveté of a child, pursue worthy causes with a fiery heart, and trust in those I lead, even when they have not given me reason to, because this is who I am. I promise that I will now and forever remain, sincerely Scott.”