Asean Para Games: 37 Singapore athletes leave for July 30-Aug 6 event in Indonesia

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SINGAPORE - In the past, swimmer Colin Soon was always the one who was doing the sending off, watching as his older sister Sophie left home for international competitions.

On Tuesday (July 26), he was no longer being left behind as the siblings are part of the 37-athlete contingent representing Singapore at the July 30-Aug 6 Asean Para Games in Indonesia.

They had gone for the IDM World Series in Berlin and the World Para Swimming Championships in Portugal earlier this year but this will be their first major multi-sport Games together.

APG debutant Colin, 17, told The Straits Times: "I always went with my sister to send her off (for competitions in the past) and finally, I'm part of the actual team.

"It'll be an exciting new experience for me and I'm looking forward to it. My main goal is to do my best because I feel that I can never go wrong if I perform to the best of my abilities."

Sophie, 25, is thrilled with the prospect of having Colin with her in Solo.

She added: "It's always fun travelling with my brother. I always get homesick whenever I travel so having him with me makes me feel less homesick because in a way, I'm bringing a piece of home with me.

"We also race similar events so my race is right before or after his a lot of the times. Seeing him in the call room makes me feel more calm and assures me that I'm not the only one in this because I have him by my side."

Sophie, whose last APG appearance was in 2015 on home soil, will be racing in the S12 50m freestyle and SB12 100m breaststroke, while Colin will compete in the SB12 50m and 100m breaststroke as well as S12 100m freestyle.

While Sophie was not able to train in the past week because she had the flu and was injured, she hopes to maintain her technique and execute it well like she did at the World Para Swimming Championships last month, when she won a silver in the SB12 100m breaststroke.

The Paralympian has an additional reason to be buoyant: She was made the flag bearer of the Singapore contingent for these Games.

In a touching gesture, teammate Wong Zhi Wei's mother Lily gave her a badge with the design of someone holding the Singapore flag printed on it to commemorate the moment.

Lily, 59, said: "I'm really proud of Sophie and that someone from the aquatics team was appointed the flag bearer. She really deserved it because she went to the Paralympics and she's doing well.

"It's a big honour and I wanted her to have something to remember it by. It's also in conjunction with National Day when Singapore flags are hanging all over Singapore now and I hope all the athletes will make us proud."

Ms Lily Wong, mother of swimmer Wong Zhi Wei, takes a photo of swimmer Sophie Soon and a flag-bearer badge at Changi Airport on July 26, 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The Singapore contingent left for Solo on Tuesday and were sent off by parents, officials from the Singapore Disability Sports Council and the Singapore National Paralympic Council as well as Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua.

Mr Chua thanked the officials, coaches and parents for their support and addressed the athletes.

He said: "You've made it. You've made a lot of sacrifices so go on and enjoy the Games, show the Games what you're made of. Do your best and fly the Singapore flag high."

Among the 37 athletes - 17 of which are debutants - are archer Nur Syahidah Alim, Toh Sze Ning (boccia), Wong Zhi Wei and Danielle Moi (both swimming).

The biennial Games were cancelled due to the pandemic in early 2020, when the Philippines was due to host it. Last December's edition in Vietnam was also postponed and later moved to Surakarta, also known as Solo.

At the last edition in Kuala Lumpur in 2017, the Republic achieved its largest away haul of 50 medals (nine golds, 17 silvers, 24 bronzes) from 90 athletes.

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