Asean Para Games: Asean Para Games squad eyeing more than just medals

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the send-off yesterday for some of the para-athletes who will be competing at the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the send-off yesterday for some of the para-athletes who will be competing at the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Progress comes in many forms and for Singapore's Asean Para Games (APG) contingent, improvement will not be measured merely against a medal haul.

Instead, apart from winning medals, one of the major targets for the 90 para-athletes competing across 11 sports at the Kuala Lumpur Games from Sept 17-23 is to record personal bests.

The team - the largest Singapore has fielded for the biennial APG, surpassing the 57 who competed in Korat, Thailand, in 2008 - left for the Malaysian capital yesterday.

Chef de mission Shirley Low said: "We hope to better the medal haul from the last 2014 (away) Games in Myanmar. Over the (ensuing) years, the athletes have proved that they have continued to develop and excel in their respective sports internationally."

"It's not just about the medals, but I hope that each of them can reach their own levels of excellence and improve on their personal bests," added Low, who is on the board of the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC).

When Low was the assistant chef de mission in Myanmar three years ago, Singapore won seven golds, 10 silvers and nine bronzes. The Republic's best away APG showing was 16 golds, 10 silvers and 11 bronzes at the inaugural edition in 2001, also held in Malaysia.

SNPC president Kevin Wong predicted: "We'll definitely do better than Myanmar. We even have athletes (like para-archer Syahidah Alim) who could have gone to the SEA Games. Our cyclists (debutants) look quite strong, and should be able to finish on the podium."

Looking at the 21 debutants - almost a quarter of the contingent - he felt that these Games mark continued progress in disability sport.

The last APG hosted by Singapore was seen as a watershed for local disability sports. The Republic fielded 151 participants and won 24 golds, 17 silvers and 22 bronzes.

The competition also exposed many disabled Singaporeans to sport, thus encouraging their involvement.

Wong said: "You see the legacy that was created from the last APG. There is a greater breadth of sports and events that we are participating in, and we've managed to uncover new talents."

Even before the start of the KL Games, Wong is already looking ahead to the next edition of the Games in two years' time.

He said: "I want to inspire the community because a lot of people with disabilities are not doing sports yet."

Also hoping to continue inspiring is veteran para-swimmer Theresa Goh, 30, who has competed at every edition of the APG.

She said at Changi Airport before boarding her flight: "It feels nostalgic and a bit strange, because I feel like I've come full circle since the first Games in KL.

"I vaguely remembered the first APG. It was one of my first few international competitions, but just that I will not be clueless when I go there any more.

"The meets are never the same. I'm excited about going back to the pool at Bukit Jalil and looking forward to seeing if there are new faces competing in my class.

"After eight editions, my track record has been good but I'm not complacent about it. I am mentally prepared for someone who could beat me."

While Goh will be competing in her ninth Games, Magesvaran Sangily will be making his debut at 39, after being spotted by CP (cerebral palsy) football coach Mohamed Zainudeen in May.

Said the defender, a father of two: "After having my kids, this is the next milestone in my life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Asean Para Games squad eyeing more than just medals'. Print Edition | Subscribe