ST Singaporean of the Year 2021: Inspirational para-swimmer and disability advocate

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Nothing has stopped Yip Pin Xiu in 2021. Not the toll of 13 years being an elite para athlete, her disease, Charcot Marie-Tooth, or her rivals at the Tokyo Paralympics, where she won two gold medals.

SINGAPORE - Backstroke specialist Yip Pin Xiu, 29, won two gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games earlier this year to add to her haul of two medals each at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016. It is a record that would make any athlete green with envy.

Her inspirational feats year after year were the result of hard work, tenacity and personal sacrifice - Tokyo was her fourth Paralympics, and capped 13 years of pushing herself at an elite level.

Ms Yip, who has Charcot-Marie Tooth disease, a progressive nerve condition, also holds the world records for the S2 50m backstroke and S2 100m backstroke, both of which she achieved at the 2016 Games.

Shortly after her win at the Tokyo Games, she told The Straits Times: "I know it may seem that it's easy to me, but I think that even leading up to it, it is never easy.

"It is never a confirmed gold medal or a confirmed first placing, and it's a lot of hard work, and to come up with this final result, it's truly amazing for me."

The former Nominated Member of Parliament is also a disability advocate and has used her platform to push for more inclusiveness in Singapore's society.

After her wins in Tokyo, Ms Yip and other members of the para-sports fraternity called for parity in the cash incentives for medallists at the Paralympics. This was echoed by former diplomat Tommy Koh in an Opinion piece published in ST in September.

Olympic athletes receive a million dollars for winning a gold medal, but Paralympic athletes received $200,000 for the equivalent feat. Now the cash payout for Paralympians who win gold has been raised to $400,000.

Ms Yip said: "I am glad that Singapore is taking active steps towards achieving parity for the cash quantum, and this is a step in the right direction. I have set my eyes on the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games and will continue to train hard."

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