SINGAPORE - Unlike his able-bodied counterparts, looking to the big results screen for confirmation would not have been possible for para-swimmer Wong Zhi Wei on Monday (Dec 11) when he won the 100m butterfly (S11-S13) race in a personal best time of 1min 9.63sec at the Asian Youth Para Games (AYPG).
The 15-year-old was born blind in his right eye and has 6/60 vision in his left, meaning anything beyond 3-5m away becomes a blur.
But he was able to see the gold medal around his neck well enough, Singapore's first in Dubai at the 3rd AYPG which began on Sunday (Dec 10) and ends on Wednesday (Dec 13).
Said Zhi Wei, who swims in the S13 category: "I came into this Games with the personal expectation of winning at least one gold medal so I'm really satisfied and happy with today, especially because I'm a butterfly swimmer."
Para-swimming events are classified according to disability levels. The S11, S12 and S13 categories are for athletes with visual impairment, with S11 being the most severe.
The Catholic High Secondary 3 student also clinched a silver in the 100m backstroke (S11-S13) on Sunday (personal best 1:16.14) and will be swimming in three more events at the Games.
Compatriot Colin Soon (1:24.38) was third in the 100m backstroke.
Asean Para Games (APG) double gold medallist Danielle Moi also picked up a bronze in the women's 200m freestyle (S14) with a time of 2:33.25.
Due to his disability, Zhi Wei relies on counting strokes when he swims, especially in the final stretch when he approaches the wall, but considers the mental aspect to be the most important during a race.
"In training, I have to depend more on my hearing and touch to hear what my coaches say and feel my body in the water, which helps with my technique," he said.
"But in competition, it's more of my mind, just making sure I do what I have to do in the pool."
He added that winning the gold has made him more confident of a future in competitive sports.
Said Zhi Wei, who won a silver in the 100m free (S13) and bronze in the 50m free (S13) at the APG in September: "In the long term, I just want to keep improving. The gold has shown me that I am capable of doing better times and I hope to win more medals in the future."