Greater heights for para sports

(Standing from left) Dr Teo-Koh, President Tony Tan, Mrs Mary Tan and Minister Grace Fu chat with para-swimmers (seated, from left) Yip Pin Xiu, Theresa Goh and James Leo at the Istana reception yesterday.
(Standing from left) Dr Teo-Koh, President Tony Tan, Mrs Mary Tan and Minister Grace Fu chat with para-swimmers (seated, from left) Yip Pin Xiu, Theresa Goh and James Leo at the Istana reception yesterday. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Building on recent APG, S'pore plans to send about 10 athletes to Rio Paralympics in September

Fresh off a successful Asean Para Games (APG), which saw Singapore notch a record 24 golds, 17 silvers and 22 bronzes, the Republic are set to field their largest contingent at the Rio Paralympics.

Speaking on the sidelines of a tea reception hosted by President Tony Tan Keng Yam for the Team Singapore para-athletes, Singapore National Paralympic Council chairman Teo-Koh Sock Miang said: "So far, nine have qualified, but we have two to three more attempting qualification. We are looking at hopefully sending 10 or 11 athletes."

According to the International Paralympic Council (IPC) website, Singapore's largest contingents were at the 1988 and 2012 Games, where eight athletes competed.

This year, nine athletes from four sports - boccia, equestrian, sailing and swimming - have already made the cut. Bidding to join them are long jumper Suhairi Suhani and women's 400m runner Michelle Yogasweri Krishnamoorthy.

Suhairi's 6.66m jump at the APG, which saw him clinch a silver, has already met the qualifying mark, but he has to go to Australia this week to get the necessary certification.

BEING ACTIVE

The onus is now on our athletes to go out and recruit friends or organisations they may know of.

''DR TEO-KOH SOCK MIANG, Singapore National Paralympic Council chairman, on increasing participation in disabled sports.

There, he will also compete in the IPC Athletics Grand Prix to try and improve his T20 mark. Michelle, on the other hand, is 0.67sec off the T20 qualifying mark.

"Going to the Paralympics is a dream come true. It's a good step- up to prepare for next year's APG. It's my first Games, so any medal in Rio is a bonus," said Suhairi, 18.

Dr Teo-Koh, who is also the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) president, spoke about using the APG as a springboard to increase participation in disabled sports. Already, some voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) have got in touch with SDSC to see how they can get involved.

She said: "The onus is now on our athletes to go out and recruit friends or organisations they may know of.

"We are also going to work hand in hand with (the VWOs) and offer some learn-to-play programmes so that we can recruit more athletes."

Yesterday's reception at the Istana was held to celebrate Team Singapore's performances at the APG, as well as in last July's Special Olympics World Games, where Singapore returned with 12 golds, 11 silvers and nine bronzes.

Dr Tan hailed the athletes' fighting spirit and graciousness, adding: "The Games also highlight the need for inclusiveness in our society. We have to ensure that no Singaporean is left behind, especially in a society as diverse as ours. Every individual, regardless of ability, is capable of being extraordinary."

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said: "Not only have they achieved personal bests, they have also collectively broken our medal records. Their hard work, determination and fighting spirit have impressed the nation and inspired many."

Dr Tan and his wife spent an hour mingling with the 218 athletes and officials present.

Cerebral palsy footballer Khairul Anwar, whose long-range goals at the APG captured the imagination of Singaporeans, said: "Mrs Tan recognised the scorers, and it was heartening to know that they watched our games.

"In fact, more people are recognising us after the APG. On Friday, a stranger came up to me and asked me about the team.

"It's really good that there is awareness, that people can see how sports have helped us as athletes and as a person."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'GREATER HEIGHTS FOR PARA SPORTS'. Print Edition | Subscribe