Local para-sports community takes centrestage at Inclusive Sports Festival

President Halimah Yacob tries her hand at boccia during her tour of the sports tryouts stations at the Inclusive Sports Festival at the Singapore Sports Hub on Aug 4, 2018. With her are (right, both in black) SportCares Foundation director Kerk Kim P
President Halimah Yacob tries her hand at boccia during her tour of the sports tryouts stations at the Inclusive Sports Festival at the Singapore Sports Hub on Aug 4, 2018. With her are (right, both in black) SportCares Foundation director Kerk Kim Por and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann.ST PHOTO: LESTER WONG

SINGAPORE - The second edition of the Inclusive Sports Festival is being held at the Singapore Sports Hub from Aug 3-5, with members of the public offered the opportunity to step into the shoes of a para-athlete through sports tryouts.

Among the sports visitors can check out at the OCBC Arena until Sunday are archery, boccia, goalball and wheelchair basketball. The three-day festival is organised by the SportCares Foundation.

President Halimah Yacob was the festival's guest of honour on Saturday (Aug 4) in her capacity as SportCares patron, spending her morning touring the various stations and gamely trying her hand at a few of the activities.

In one of the highlights of her visit, Madam Halimah took on the guide role for visually impaired runner Patricia Poo, chatting amiably and even spontaneously breaking into a run.

Said Poo, a member of local running group Runninghour which pairs able-bodied runners with people with disabilities: "I was telling her about the things a guide has to do when running with a blind person. For example, we are linked by a shoelace and the guide has to keep giving a lot of instructions as we run."

Her actual guide for the day was Liz Koh, a human resource director who has known Poo since she joined Runninghour four years ago.

"In our group, we serve as guides for the physically and intellectually disabled as well. We're basically the eyes and ears for them and it's all about communication and trust," said Koh.

The festival is part of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's Disability Sports Master Plan, and was first held last July at Our Tampines Hub.

Aside from para-sports, members of the public can also try out aquatic sports like sailing, canoeing and scuba-diving at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, as well as rock-climbing in Kallang Wave Mall.

Manufacturing planner Gopan Tharakamkunnath had a go at kicking a ball into the goal while blindfolded. He was at the festival with his three-year-old son Dev to support his wife, who is one of the event's many volunteers.

"I'm here with my son so I was not expecting to try the sports myself but it was quite fun. You really have to hear where the goal is in order to aim," said the 32-year-old.

Singapore Disability Sports Council president Kevin Wong lauded the event as a good platform to showcase of what being physically active means for the disabled community.

"Sometimes people just don't know what it's like for our para-athletes and nothing beats experiencing it for yourself," said Wong.

"It's not just able-bodied people but members of the disabled community too. Some of them decide they are interested in a sport after trying it and they sign up with us."