SINGAPORE - The 2022 Asean Para Games (APG) will now be hosted by Surakarta, Indonesia, the Asean Para Sports Federation announced on Thursday (Feb 17).
The biennial event, which had been cancelled due to the pandemic in early 2020 (when the Philippines was due to host it) and last December (Vietnam), will now take place from July 23 to 30.
The news was welcomed by some of Singapore's para athletes as the event was last staged in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.
Powerlifter Nur Aini Mohamad Yasli, who made her competitive debut in Kuala Lumpur before joining the world's top para athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics last year, said: "Knowing that there will be a competition for the larger pool of para athletes brings me great joy as there was no APG for the past two years.
"With the confirmed dates now, I have a clearer timeline to work with."
The proposed sports for the Games include archery, athletics, badminton, boccia, CP football, chess, goalball, judo, powerlifting, table tennis, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis and sitting volleyball.
However, the new dates might pose a challenge for some of the Republic's athletes as they clash with the July 28-Aug 8 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where para sports such as swimming and powerlifting will feature.
Based on the available events in Birmingham, the athletes who are likely be affected are Aini and swimmer Toh Wei Soong.
Aini said: "Scheduling plays a big part in this and right now, we just have to wait and see.
"I'll work closely with my coach and the Singapore Disability Sports Council to see which course to take based on my performance pathway outline.
"But whichever course I take, I will put in 100 per cent and do Singapore proud."
Still, some athletes, like Boccia player Aloysius Gan, who won a gold and a silver at last December's Asian Youth Para Games, felt it would be better to concentrate on improving oneself instead of having specific Games targets, adding: "The situation is too fluid. My focus is mainly on how I can improve and achieve my personal sporting goals."
Paralympian Toh agreed, noting that the uncertainty surrounding the APG in the last few months "has not been a game changer".
The 23-year-old, who won two golds and one silver at the 2017 APG, said: "With the pandemic coming into its third year, you learn to adapt to the situation and to keep an open mind about possibilities. Things are not as straightforward as they once were, and we cannot expect them to be."
The Javanese city of Surakarta, which is otherwise known as Solo, had previously hosted the APG in 2011. It was awarded the hosting rights after Indonesia was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's non-compliance list earlier this month.
Yi Veasna, chairman of the APSF board of governors, urged member nations to support the Games by sending their athletes to give them a chance to compete.
"It's important for us to move forward in one voice as our main priority is to ensure that the Games remain relevant to the Asean Paralympic fraternity in many more years to come," said Veasna in a post on the APSF's Facebook page.
Singapore National Paralympic Council president Teo-Koh Sock Miang told The Straits Times: "Our para athletes are raring to go and I know they welcome the opportunity to pit their skills against their counterparts.
"The Tokyo Paralympics and many other major sport competitions held in the past 11/2 years have shown that it is safe for athletes to compete with appropriate Covid-19 safety measures.
"We have learnt to live with the challenges and as long as everyone is responsible, takes all the necessary safety precautions and abides by guidelines, I am confident we can have a safe Games."