Para-sports: Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu relishes role reversal

Rio Paralympics double champion Yip Pin Xiu showing her medals to her then four-and 10-year-old nieces Shernice Ang and Chew Xiu Wen at Changi Airport in September last year upon her return.
Rio Paralympics double champion Yip Pin Xiu showing her medals to her then four-and 10-year-old nieces Shernice Ang and Chew Xiu Wen at Changi Airport in September last year upon her return.ST FILE PHOTO

Three-time Paralympic champ will be chef de mission for biggest Asian Youth Para team

As an athlete, para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu has played a notable role in writing Singapore disability sports' history books, including becoming the nation's first Paralympic champion in 2008.

She will post yet another first in less than two months when the Asian Youth Para Games (AYPG) are held in Dubai - this time in the capacity of an official.

The 25-year-old has been named chef de mission of the Dec 8-14 event, marking the first time an active para-athlete has been appointed to helm a contingent. The three-time Paralympic champion will lead a 30-strong group to the third AYPG.

It is the largest contingent that the Republic is sending to the quadrennial event, and considerably more than the nine who competed in Malaysia in 2013. Singapore won three silver medals that year.

With athletes aged 12 to 23 competing across six sports (athletics, badminton, boccia, swimming, table tennis and bowling), Yip knows her responsibilities are not small.

Yet the first-timer has little nerves, and plenty of ambition.

"I've already been briefed on what a chef de mission has to do. I think it's something I can handle," she told The Straits Times.

"The secretariat team going up with me is a very capable group so I'm not super worried about it.

"In some ways, I think I'm ready. Of course I wouldn't completely know what to expect, but I think the experience I've had at major Games does help."

Her appointment is part of bigger plans to help athletes with disabilities take up roles of influence beyond their sport.

Said Kevin Wong, Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) president: "This is in line with the SDSC's plans for athletes to be empowered to play leading roles not only in sports, but also society at large.

"Through such initiatives, SDSC hopes to help more persons with disabilities benefit from the impact of sports, and the public to understand the abilities and qualities of national athletes," added Wong, who is also chairman of the Singapore National Paralympic Council.

The appointment holds special significance for Yip, who has always been keen to give back to sport. Said Yip, who participated in the inaugural 2009 AYPG in Tokyo: "If this is a way to help younger athletes become better athletes, then I'm all for it.

"I want to be a chef de mission who is hands-on. I want to help out in a lot of small ways as well, ways that can help our athletes feel comfortable.

"Above all, I hope I can be somebody who helps show the young athletes that this is just the start of something very wonderful - as long as they continue to work hard."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Yip relishes role reversal'. Print Edition | Subscribe