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What Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu plans to do with her 1 million KrisFlyer miles

Paralympian swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, who recently received one million KrisFlyer miles, says she would love to go to Iceland and Norway

What does Paralympian swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, 24, plan to do with one million KrisFlyer miles?

The three-time Paralympic champion, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, has no immediate plans, but her dream destinations are the Nordic countries.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) awarded her the coveted miles last Tuesday at Sao Paulo International Airport in Brazil, to celebrate her achievements at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The cheerful athlete, who won two gold medals - in the 50m and 100m backstroke S2 events - this year, says: "As we were on our way home, and I was being wheeled to the airbridge to board the flight, I suddenly saw a table laid out with a cake and champagne.

"Some SIA staff came out to present me with a giant gold card. They also upgraded our seats - mine and fellow Paralympian Theresa Goh's - to first class.

"It was really unexpected, but I felt very happy," she says.

Last month, fellow swimmer Joseph Schooling - the first Singaporean to win an Olympic gold medal, for the 100m butterfly - also received one million KrisFlyer miles.

He is attending university at the University of Texas in Austin in the United States and his representative declined for him to be interviewed.

But Yip is aglow as she talks about her dream destinations and her love of travel.

She says: "I've seen photos of Iceland and Norway online and they seem to have beautiful waterfalls in every corner. Although many people want to go to those countries to see the Northern Lights, I think even without these lights, the countries are very beautiful."

She hopes to start planning for her trips soon.

But first, she will go on a road trip in Britain next month with her boyfriend, a journey planned before her KrisFlyer award.

She shyly declines to reveal more about him, but says they will drive north from London to Birmingham, York, the Lake District and Scotland.

"I'm really excited to be able to take a break for a while. We have three weeks altogether and we may even visit Croatia and Ireland."

Too bad they have already booked their flights. But will she consider upgrading their seats?

  • What travel miles can be used for

  • KrisFlyer is the frequent flyer programme of Singapore Airlines (SIA). KrisFlyer miles can be earned when members fly, stay, charge, book or buy from SIA, SilkAir or their air and non-air partners.

    There are three tiers of membership - KrisFlyer, KrisFlyer Elite Silver and KrisFlyer Elite Gold - with the latter two being higher tiers.

    KrisFlyer miles are valid for three years and can be used to redeem flights, flight upgrades or Scoot and Tigerair vouchers. Flights can be redeemed as saver awards or standard awards, with the saver category requiring fewer miles.

    Round-the-world trips are also available. For example, one million KrisFlyer miles can be used to redeem five round-the-world trips in economy class, four such trips in business class and two such trips in first class, if redeemed as saver awards.

    KrisFlyer members can nominate up to five individuals - but not a corporation or legal entity - as their redemption nominees. This means members can redeem their KrisFlyer miles for tickets or flight upgrades for their nominees.

    When redeeming tickets, customers still have to pay taxes, surcharges and fees. These start from US$80 (S$110), according to the SIA website.

    KrisFlyer miles can also be used to redeem flight upgrades.

    Business-class ticket-holders can use the airline's SilverKris business class lounges. Those who hold a suites or first-class ticket can use its SilverKris first class lounge, as well as its private room at Changi Airport.

"Probably not. I would rather use the miles for another trip."

Although the sporting life has taken her all over the world, she reveals that tight training or competition schedules often limit her sightseeing. "Usually, I get to enjoy only the last day of the trip and see only one attraction.

"Going on your own, of course, is much more enjoyable. You get to see much more and at your own pace."

Ever the nature buff, she enjoys the countryside and one of her most memorable trips was a holiday with her family about 10 years ago to New Zealand.

"During the trip, I saw mountains and fields that were vast and beautiful. When I see so much nature around me, I feel very small and sense a special connection with the world."

When travelling, her disability can be an obstacle, which is why she has not travelled alone yet.

Yip, who uses a wheelchair, says: "You don't know which places are accessible and which are not."

A trip to Japan with Goh, her teammate and best friend, might soon be on the cards. At a press conference last Wednesday, she teased Goh, saying: "You want to come?"

Goh replied: "You pay for me?"

A tempting proposition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 25, 2016, with the headline 'Dream destinations'. Print Edition | Subscribe