Triumph brings familiar faces together

Top: (From left) Toh Boon Yi (Singapore Sports Institute chief), Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, athletes and SSI staff cheering at the SSI, as Yip Pin Xiu wins a second Rio gold. Above: About 500 current and former students
(From left) Toh Boon Yi (Singapore Sports Institute chief), Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, athletes and SSI staff cheering at the SSI, as Yip Pin Xiu wins a second Rio gold. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Top: (From left) Toh Boon Yi (Singapore Sports Institute chief), Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, athletes and SSI staff cheering at the SSI, as Yip Pin Xiu wins a second Rio gold. Above: About 500 current and former students
Above: About 500 current and former students and staff at Yip's former school, Bendemeer Secondary, showing their fervent support.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

She was nearly 16,000km away in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium but the ripples of Yip Pin Xiu's second gold at the Rio Paralympics were felt throughout Singapore yesterday morning.

An estimated 500 people, comprising staff, current and former students, gathered at Bendemeer Secondary School - she is an alumna - to watch the 24-year-old compete in the 50m backstroke S2.

The school had organised a live screening of the final in the school hall. The crowd, armed with flags and clappers, cheered loudly each time Yip appeared on screen. Even a 30-minute delay did little to quell the excitement.

Secondary 2 student Steffanie Lim, 14, said: "It was a very celebratory moment when she won because she just made history in a huge way. Even with her disability, she's able to push herself to the highest level and it's even nicer to know an ex-student did Singapore proud."

Anusha Rai, Yip's former classmate, remembers how driven her close friend was even back then. She aid: "She's always a fun and outspoken person. Pin Xiu back then and Pin Xiu now is the same person but just more focused and determined in her swim career."

Added Agnes Tan, Yip's former form teacher: "She's a very bubbly girl and was always very humble. She's very self-motivated and knows what she wants in life.

"I'm proud of her, beyond description. It's simply awesome what she has done in Rio. We still keep in contact and I already sent a congratulatory note on her second gold."

It was a similarly festive mood at the Singapore Sports Institute at the Sports Hub, where officials and about 25 national athletes had gathered to watch and cheer Yip on television at the Athletes' Lounge. They were joined by Minister for Social and Family Development and Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin.

Captain of the national women's dragon boat team, Chua Jia Min, woke up at 4.30am to make the trip from her home in Boon Lay. She said: "She trains so hard and all her hard work paid off so we're all very happy for her. She's an inspiration for all of us. She perseveres throughout her entire journey, I'm sure it's not easy for her in training."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Triumph brings familiar faces together'. Print Edition | Subscribe