Asian Para Games: Hot pairing Sarah Tan and Emily Lee are rock steady

 Singapore para-cyclist Emily Lee and pilot Sarah Tan in the women’s 72km (18 Laps) road race (B). They finished third among five pairs in 2hr 25min 33sec) to win the bronze.
Singapore para-cyclist Emily Lee and pilot Sarah Tan in the women’s 72km (18 Laps) road race (B). They finished third among five pairs in 2hr 25min 33sec) to win the bronze. PHOTO: SPORTSG
Asian Para Games debutante Diane Neo took the silver in the women's singles TPB4.
Asian Para Games debutante Diane Neo took the silver in the women's singles TPB4.PHOTO: SPORTSG

Tandem cyclists Lee and Tan credit team for showing, Toh wins 2nd swim gold

Tandem para-cycling is a sport that requires a visually impaired athlete relying on his or her sighted counterpart for guidance, but Emily Lee and her pilot Sarah Tan tried to communicate as little as possible with each other during the Asian Para Games 72km road race (B) yesterday.

Their reduced communication did not hamper their performance, however, as the pair finished third in 2hr 25min 33sec at the Sentul International Circuit to clinch Singapore's first Asian Para Games cycling medal.

Tan noted that they had to battle the heat and wind in addition to their opponents, saying: "I just gave Emily commands and she followed through because we wanted to minimise the energy wasted on talking."

Lee revealed that she had been nervous before arriving in Jakarta.

"But when I reached the Asian Games village, the atmosphere here lifted me so I didn't feel as nervous after that," she added. "There were lots of performances here, which made me feel happy so I didn't think too much."

Yesterday's distance was the longest the pair have covered in a competitive race, and Lee, who is blind, said teamwork and mental preparation were key in getting through it.

Pilot Sarah Tan and cyclist Emily Lee (far right) finished third yesterday in the Asian Para Games women's 72km road race B. They clinched Singapore's first cycling medal in the Jakarta Games. The Republic won three other medals yesterday through swi
Pilot Sarah Tan and cyclist Emily Lee (right) finished third yesterday in the Asian Para Games women's 72km road race B. They clinched Singapore's first cycling medal in the Jakarta Games. The Republic won three other medals yesterday through swimmers Toh Wei Soong (men's 100m free S7 gold) and Yip Pin Xiu (women's 100m free S4 bronze), and bowler Diane Neo (women's singles TPB4 silver). The tally now is three golds, one silver and three bronzes. PHOTO: SPORTSG

"(I told myself) I must be able to last till the end and I knew that if I could, we had a chance to win the race," said the 48-year-old, who reminded herself to follow the advice of coaches and teammates and to focus on the process.

"I focused on my breathing and just pedalled in a circular motion instead of rocking the bike. If you're tired, sometimes you may rock the bike, so I tried my best to be focused, listen to my pilot's instructions and follow the cadence."

To Lee, the most difficult part of the race was the hot weather. She and Tan, 28, kept their cool in more ways than one - they started the race with ice packs at the back of their jerseys to cope with the heat.

The latter stressed that their achievement was a team effort, noting the support of their coaches, bike mechanic and team-mates as key throughout the race.

The pair were Singapore's most bemedalled athletes at last year's Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur with five medals, one of which was gold and Singapore's first cycling title at the biennial Games.

Para Cycling Federation of Singapore president Christian Stauffer lauded their performance as a "stunning job", noting that their feat is a result of their dedicated and meticulous approach to training.

"What's key in their preparation is they really put in effort on a daily basis, doing things that ultimately contribute to their progress whether it's a gym session or a long ride," said Stauffer, who is also the national coach.

"There's no magic (formula) - it's like a jigsaw puzzle."

Singapore added another gold to its tally yesterday, when swimmer Toh Wei Soong overcame "a bit of a hiccup" to win the men's 100m freestyle S7 title in a personal best of 1:03.16. It was the 20-year-old's second gold after he won the 50m freestyle S7 on Sunday.

Explaining that his goggles had come off during the heats in the morning, he said: "The idea was to learn from this morning and to apply what I learnt (from) the mistakes I made to streamline it to this final. I'm very happy with how I did.

"It's another milestone in my journey towards the world record and (the Tokyo Paralympics) in two years' time. I'm very excited to be on this journey, to be making this progress. I can only imagine where it's going to go the next two years."

Fellow swimmer Yip Pin Xiu won the women's 100m free S4 (S1-4) bronze, while bowler Diane Neo clinched silver in the women's singles TPB4 on her Games debut, taking the Republic's tally to three golds, one silver and three bronzes. The Games conclude on Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2018, with the headline 'Hot pairing are rock steady'. Print Edition | Subscribe