Inclusive c'ships see 110 take to pool

Competitors diving into the Tampines Swimming Complex pool at the National Inclusive Swimming Championships. This year's competition had swimmers with autism and Down syndrome taking part for the first time.
Competitors diving into the Tampines Swimming Complex pool at the National Inclusive Swimming Championships. This year's competition had swimmers with autism and Down syndrome taking part for the first time.ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

In 2015, Jeremiah Liauw watched Singapore's swimmers race at the Asean Para Games (APG).

He was so inspired that he started competing less than a year later. That same passion continues to this day.

Yesterday, the 12-year-old was among some 110 persons with disabilities (PWDs) who participated in the SPH Foundation National Inclusive Swimming Championships at the Tampines Swimming Complex.

"My mum took me to watch the Asean Para Games in Singapore and I got more interested in swimming after that," said the Primary 6 pupil from St Joseph's Institution (Junior), whose parents, younger sister and helper donned T-shirts that read "Go Jeremiah, you can do it!" .

"If they can do it, then I think I can too," added the youngster, who has spina bifida, a birth neural tube defect, and has been swimming since he was three.

Jeremiah, who competed in the 50m breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle races, revealed that he aspires to race in the APG.

"I really like swimming because it's so exciting, I don't know my results until the end of the race," he said.

Now in their 37th edition, the championships serve as a platform to scout talented PWDs for regional and international meets.

They are also an opportunity for participants to gain competition experience and mingle with fellow swimmers in the community.

Rising star Wong Zhi Wei, who won gold in the 100m fly at the Asean Youth Para Games last year, said: "I like the drive of competitive swimming so this (event) gives us a chance to experience the thrill of it."

"I also get to see all of my friends here so it's a good bonding experience for all of us," added the 16-year-old, who was born blind in his right eye and has 6/60 vision in his left, meaning anything beyond 3-5m away becomes a blur.

This is the eighth year SPH Foundation is the title sponsor. There were fewer than 100 swimmers last year.

Three-time Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu also took to the water for the 100m and 50m backstroke events yesterday.

Said the 26-year-old: "There are more and more participants every year. It's nice that this pool is sheltered so we don't have to worry about the weather conditions.

"I started my swimming career at this very competition back in 2004 so it's a good platform for anybody to find out if they like racing."

"The annual National Inclusive Swimming Championships provides an opportunity for people of all abilities to participate in sport, and I am happy to be here today to give them my support," said Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) Baey Yam Keng, who was the guest of honour at the event. "Through such events, our para-swimmers will also gain more confidence, preparing them for regional and international competitions in the future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 08, 2018, with the headline 'Inclusive c'ships see 110 take to pool'. Print Edition | Subscribe