2015 Asean Para Games: Day 6

Asean Para Games: Gold rush in full swing

Toh Wei Soong on his way to victory in yesterday's 100m backstroke S8 timed final. It was the debutant's fourth gold medal of these Games, putting him one behind Paralympian Theresa Goh and Benson Tan.
Toh Wei Soong on his way to victory in yesterday's 100m backstroke S8 timed final. It was the debutant's fourth gold medal of these Games, putting him one behind Paralympian Theresa Goh and Benson Tan.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Record haul of 20 golds for S'pore as debutant Toh helps Republic to surpass tally from 2001 Games

It took Singapore swimmer Toh Wei Soong only 1min 21.02sec to surge through the pool yesterday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

But in that time, he not only won the men's 100m backstroke S8 final but also opened a new chapter in the nation's para sport history.

The 17-year-old's gold medal was the hosts' 17th of these Asean Para Games. More importantly, it helped the Republic surpass their best-ever gold haul of 16, achieved at the inaugural Games in 2001.

Wei Soong bagged another gold in the evening session when, in front of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, he outswam his rivals in the 50m free S8.

The Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student, who now has four golds on his Games debut, said: "The team spirit is amazing, all of us are really pumped up for the Games.

"Credit goes to the entire team - it's testament to how much effort we've put in, and how hard we've worked."

Singapore's chef de mission Raja Singh was at the swimming venue to witness the milestone.

He said: "The athletes are composed and they're all focused on their events so that's wonderful."

Asked if he would raise the medal target, he said half-jokingly: "We can set a simple target.

"Let's go for 21 first."

Moving away from medals, he added: "These Games have created a high level of awareness for disability sports.

"We're also looking at bigger numbers in terms of participation, encouraging people of disabilities to come and play. Moving forward this (should be) the key."

In all, Singapore's swimmers added five golds, one silver and three bronzes on Day Four of the swimming competition.

Theresa Goh started the gold rush with the day's first event, winning the 50m free S5 (S2-S5).

Fellow Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu, an S2 swimmer competing three classes up, was an impressive second. She clocked 1:01.23 in the backstroke, and went under the world 50m backstroke mark (1:03.00), although it will not count as an official record as it was swum in a freestyle event.

Benson Tan added two golds, winning the 100m back S14 and 50m free S14.

Both he and Goh are on five golds.

The other medallists were Han Liang Chou (men's 50m free S8), Lawrence Tay (men's 100m back S14) and Wong Meng Ee (men's 50m free S12), who contributed a bronze each.

Like Raja, the swimmers were hopeful this meet would usher in a new era in disability sports.

Veteran Goh, who has competed in every edition of the Games, said: "There were a few debutants who got gold this year.

"It shows how much effort a lot of people are putting into training and pushing forward.

"This speaks well for the future."

Yip, Singapore's first Paralympic champion, said: "Eleven years ago, when I started, the only (para) athlete that people knew was Theresa.

"And they didn't know her like a champion but more as somebody doing disability sport.

"Now, the point of view is different. They view us as athletes and we're very appreciative of how much disability sport has grown in Singapore."

Wei Soong added: "Hopefully, it can be a stepping stone.

"We're going to keep improving, keep going on, one step at a time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'Gold rush in full swing'. Print Edition | Subscribe