Asean Para Games: Pride is different this time, says cauldron lighter Yip

From left: Nine-year-old boccia player Aloysius Gan, badminton player Tay Wei Ming and swimmer Yip Pin Xiu combining to light the Asean Para Games' cauldron at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night.
From left: Nine-year-old boccia player Aloysius Gan, badminton player Tay Wei Ming and swimmer Yip Pin Xiu combining to light the Asean Para Games' cauldron at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Such is the significance of putting torch to cauldron at a home Games that even Yip Pin Xiu, a veteran athlete of major events who has reached the pinnacle of her sport, could not help but be overcome with emotion upon being handed the honour yesterday.

The swimmer, Singapore's only Paralympic champion, was among seven athletes chosen to take the Asean Para Games (APG) torch on its final leg inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday at the opening ceremony of the biennial event.

She joined hands with badminton player Tay Wei Ming and nine-year-old boccia player Aloysius Gan - he is too young to compete in the Games - as the final torchbearers, lighting the cauldron to signify the official start of the APG.

She had fretted that her hands, which have weakened over the years from muscular dystrophy, would not be able to hold the torch firmly. Yip, 23, even joked that there were fears that her hair would catch fire from the flame.

But when the moment came, it was simply one thick with meaning.

"The sense of pride I have is very different from winning (at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics)," she said. "To be able to light (the Games' cauldron) is really special.

"I never imagined that the APG at home would be such a big thing.

"This is not a personal achievement. It's the whole country's. I'm so proud to be doing this, so proud to call myself a Singaporean."

Tay, a two-time APG champion competing in his fourth Games, was asked to be a torchbearer about two months ago, but never dared dream of being given the ultimate honour.

"This is something that I've never experienced and an opportunity that not everyone has," said the 27-year-old, whose parents watched with pride yesterday.

Other torchbearers were powerlifter Kalai Vanen and swimmers Benson Tan and Toh Wei Soong, and shooter Aishah Samad.

The APG marks a triumphant comeback for Aishah, after a bacterial infection in 2012 led to the amputation of all four limbs.

The 2003 SEA Games bronze medallist said: "Even when I was able-bodied, I didn't have chances like this.

"I lost four limbs but I got a lot more than what I've lost. I'm amazed with everything around me, with myself, with destiny."

Handing Aloysius - he suffers from cerebral palsy - a role in lighting the cauldron was also a nod to the future of disability sports here.

He won gold in the BC3 pair event at the National Disability League this year.

Said Tay: "Having him (light the cauldron) with us signifies that disability sports will continue to be nurtured in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'Pride is different this time: Cauldron lighter Yip'. Print Edition | Subscribe