Swimming: Yip favoured for two backstroke golds in Rio after world records in Portugal

Yip Pin Xiu with her 100m backstroke (S2) gold medal at the IPC Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal, yesterday. Her winning time of 2min 9.79sec was more than six seconds faster than the previous mark.
Yip Pin Xiu with her 100m backstroke (S2) gold medal at the IPC Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal, yesterday. Her winning time of 2min 9.79sec was more than six seconds faster than the previous mark.PHOTO COURTESY OF KANG TZE WEI

Two world backstroke records in Portugal a reminder of looming pressure at Paralympics

Singapore para swimmer Yip Pin Xiu established herself as the firm favourite for two golds at the Rio Paralympics when she lowered two world records on Wednesday (Thursday morning, Singapore time).

In Funchal, Portugal, scene of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming European Open Championships, Yip smashed the 100m backstroke (S2) world record with her winning time of 2min 9.79sec.

It was more than six seconds faster than the previous mark of 2:16.31, set by Ukraine's Ganna Ielisavetska in 2014, and saw Yip clinch her first gold of the meet.

The same event also saw her lower her own 50m backstroke (S2) world record of 1:01.61, set at last December's Asean Para Games. Yip was 1:01.39 after the first turn on Wednesday.

Sounding her usual bubbly self as she spoke to The Straits Times over the phone at breakfast yesterday, Yip said: "I was quite surprised. I was eyeing the record but I was expecting a 2:11.

"Now I feel more confident (of my abilities) and I am looking to improve and do an even better time."

  • 2

    Number of world records national para swimmer Yip Pin Xiu set at the IPC Swimming European Open Championships.

  • 6

    Number of seconds Yip shaved off the previous 100m backstroke mark.

Yip, who has a 50m backstroke gold (S3) from the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, acknowledged there will be more pressure on her slender shoulders to deliver in Rio.

After all, looking at times clocked from January last year by her rivals, her closest competitor in the 100m back is Ukraine's Iryna Sotska, who timed 2:17.13 last July.

China's Feng Yazhu leads the chasing pack in the 50m backstroke with a time of 1:02.47 registered last September.

But Yip said she is confident of coping with the heightened expectations.

"There will be more pressure, but I can choose to look at it in different ways. We'll have to work with psychologists on how to handle the extra pressure," said Yip, who still has the 50m freestyle (S2) and 50m back (S2) coming up in Portugal.

"But I'm really just focusing on myself. Somebody new might come by, someone might improve a lot. As long as I clock a good timing a medal is possible and that's what I'm working towards."

Yip also bettered two Asian records when she finished fifth in the 100m free (S3) with a time of 2:15.68.

It was under Feng's 2:17.15 set last year, and her first 50m time of 1:03.82 was also faster than the Chinese swimmer's 50m free mark of 1:05.47.

Team-mate Theresa Goh also enjoyed a good day out, setting a new Asian record in the 100m breaststroke (SB4) with a time of 1:59.90. It was under her previous mark of 2:00.86 set in 2008.

Coach Mick Massey said it is important not to let the good showing at the meet, which ends on Saturday, distract swimmers from the ultimate goal - success in Rio.

Emphasising that consistent work is the key, he said: "It is also good to remember to keep your athletes' feet on the ground. In truth the only races that really matter will be in Rio.

"Everything else we do is just part of the process."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Two Rio golds beckon Yip'. Print Edition | Subscribe