Asean Para Games: Keen to hit the right note

Kelvin Tan (foreground) at a training session for goalball. This team sport for blind athletes will be included in the Asean Para Games in Singapore from Dec 3-9.
Kelvin Tan (foreground) at a training session for goalball. This team sport for blind athletes will be included in the Asean Para Games in Singapore from Dec 3-9.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Project SuperStar winner Kelvin Tan will don Singapore colours at the Asean Para Games

Most people know Kelvin Tan Wei Lian as the blind busker who rose to fame when he won the reality television singing competition Project SuperStar in 2005.

Come December, however, the 33-year-old crooner will be in the spotlight for an altogether different reason.

Tan is part of the 145-strong Singapore contingent for the Dec 3-9 Asean Para Games, announced by the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) at Yishun Sports Hall yesterday.

It is the largest contingent Singapore will deploy for the biennial meet, almost three times the number it sent to last year's Myanmar Para Games, and will feature 80 debutants, including Tan.

He will represent hosts Singapore in goalball, a team sport for blind athletes where players try to roll a ball into their opponents' goal.

It is the first time Singapore is taking part in the event.

Speaking at Yishun Sports Hall yesterday, Tan - who trains three times a week - said: "Preparations are definitely good. We are very new. For us this time we are going for experience, to have fun there.

"I hope Singaporeans will come down and support us, and I also hope to reach out to more people with disabilities. Sports is a big part of life, and no matter what your disability is, I'm sure you can find a sport that suits you."

In June, the para athletes realised how the fervent home support helped Team Singapore to win a record 84 SEA Games golds, shattering the previous mark of 50 golds set in 1993.

Singapore's best haul across the previous seven editions of the Asean Para Games was in 2001, when they notched 16 golds.

And Singapore chef de mission Raja Singh is hopeful the para athletes can also create history in December, especially if Singaporeans show up in full force.

Raja, who is also vice-president of the Singapore Disability Sports Council, said: "We are getting a lot of support from the Asean Para Games organising committee and the Singapore Sports Institute, and we are pushing the athletes really hard.

"Our athletes are also highly motivated by the results of the SEA Games. I've been receiving e-mails and calls from athletes asking whether I can write to their employers to release them earlier, so they can train even harder. To me that's very encouraging.

"If the support is the same as (it was at) the SEA Games, and if we continue with this effort in the next 31/2 months, I don't see (winning a record number of golds) not happening."

Swimmer Theresa Goh, who has competed in all seven Asean Para Games, is also looking forward to putting on the best possible show in front of the home crowd.

The Paralympian said: "We're all really excited. Some of us went to watch the SEA Games, and it was really unbelievable. The crowd was better than we thought... it will be nerve-wracking but something I'd cherish for a long time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Keen to hit the right note'. Print Edition | Subscribe