Para sport: On track to excel in their fields

While Rio-bound 19-year-old Suhairi Suhani's 6.47m leap yesterday is short of his 6.66m silver-winning jump at last year's Asean Para Games, he is unfazed as he wanted mainly to focus on his run-up and landing.
While Rio-bound 19-year-old Suhairi Suhani's 6.47m leap yesterday is short of his 6.66m silver-winning jump at last year's Asean Para Games, he is unfazed as he wanted mainly to focus on his run-up and landing.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Paralympians Suhairi and Norsilawati tuning up well with decent results at national c'ships

Rio-bound long jumper Suhairi Suhani received a welcome confidence boost ahead of next month's Paralympic Games when he won the F20 long jump at the 44th National Para Athletics Championships yesterday.

A silver medallist at last year's Asean Para Games, the 19-year-old leapt 6.47m at the Hougang Stadium yesterday to finish ahead of four other competitors.

More than 200 participants, aged seven and above, registered for the annual championships.

Despite his win, Suhairi, who is intellectually disabled, insisted that the meet - his last competition before Rio - was "not about winning medals".

"I came here to get used to the competition atmosphere, and to focus on my run-up and landing," said the Delta Senior School student, who will make his debut at the Sept 7-18 Games. "I wanted to put into practice what I learnt in training."

Coach C. Veeramani agreed, adding that no medal targets had been set going into yesterday's meet.

"Our objective was to keep him in competition mode during this final build-up," said the 39-year-old.

"Here, there is a real competition environment where he has to go through the motions of warming up and waiting for the other competitors to finish - this will be critical for his preparations for the Paralympics."

The "real competition environment" of yesterday's meet will go a long way in preparing fellow Paralympic debutant Norsilawati Sa'at for any potential hiccups she faces before her race in Rio.

The wheelchair racer had to deal with the scorching sun and a 40-minute delay before her 100m T52 race. Her time of 37.04sec was far from her personal best of 26.40, but she remained optimistic about her performance.

"Any kind of competition or race before the Paralympic Games is a good warm-up," said the 39-year- old, who injured her spine in a car accident. "Everything that happened today can also happen in Rio, so it's just about how I manage it.

"I'll take today as a learning experience and psych myself up so that I will be better prepared and ready in Rio."

Norsilawati, who also won the T52 200m race yesterday, admitted that there were "many things to improve on" if she hopes to post a new personal best at the Games, namely mental preparation and stroke consistency.

But coach Jaffa Mohamed Salleh believes she is prepared for the Rio Games.

"Sila's body doesn't adapt well to different temperatures and the heat in Rio is probably going to be similar (to today)," he said. "We also train outdoors under the hot sun on alternate days, so it's a good thing she has adjusted to the heat."

Suhairi, whose 6.66m effort at the APG was a new personal best, added: "I was second at the APG in Singapore and it made me more confident. I'm so excited to be representing Singapore at the Paralympics.

"I'm going not to have fun, but to learn and gain more experience from competing with the best jumpers in the world.

"Hopefully in Rio I will do what I need to do, and set a new PB."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'On track to excel in their fields'. Print Edition | Subscribe