SINGAPORE - The pandemic posed all sorts of challenges in the lead up to last year's Paralympics, but that did not stop Singapore's swimmers from getting breakthroughs in Tokyo.
At the Tokyo Games, Yip Pin Xiu retained her women's 50m and 100m S2 butterfly titles, while Games debutant Toh Wei Soong rewrote the national record for the men's S7 50m butterfly twice en route to finishing fourth.
Their feats saw Yip and Toh named Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year respectively at the Singapore Disability Sports Awards on Wednesday (July 6).
Held at at ParkRoyal @ Beach Road, it was the first time since the pandemic that there was a physical ceremony for the annual awards.
This was Yip's third Sportswoman of the Year accolade after winning in 2019 and last year. The 30-year-old, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy aged two, was nominated alongside Nur Syahidah Alim (archery), Jeralyn Tan (boccia) and Nur Aini Mohamad Yasli (powerlifting).
Her coach Mark Chay was given the Coach of the Year (High Performance) award for the second time in a row.
Yip said: “It is a recognition of the consistent effort of my team and myself. I’m grateful for the support of the entire ecosystem behind me and hopefully in the next couple of years, I will also be getting faster times and better results on the way to Paris.”
Yip, who said that she had not expected to stay in the sport for as long as she has when she first started, is determined to grow the awareness about para-sports.
She has been a vocal advocate for the inclusiveness of para-athletes in sport and her achievements have also sparked change. Just last week, it was announced that the cash rewards for medal wins at major Games would be increased.
Yip said: “It’s been a journey and even as of present day, we still face certain challenges but we are definitely working towards making para-sports more prominent and accessible.”
Meanwhile, it was the first time that 2019 and 2020 Sportsboy of the Year Toh, who has transverse myelitis, received the Sportsman of the Year award. The other nominee for the award was shot putter Muhammad Diroy Noordin.
Toh, 23, said: “This transition of being a Sportsman also marks a transition to me being a more mature athlete... as someone moving into the later half of his career whereby the question is not so much will I make the standard, but I am of the standard and how much more I can raise the standard, not just for myself but for the rest of my sport.”
Fellow swimmer Colin Soon bagged the Sportsboy of the Year award following his four-gold performance at the Asian Youth Para Games in Bahrain, last December, with his coach Roland Tan named Coach of the Year (Developmental).
Sprinter Siti Nurhayati Ali Aksar Khan was awarded Sportsgirl of the Year for the silver medal that she won in the women's Under-20 T20 400m at the Asian Youth Para Games.
This year's event was presented by Haw Par Corporation with $120,000 donated to the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC).
In her welcome address, SDSC president Teo-Koh Sock Miang said: "Thank you for your significant contributions to disability sports in Singapore. Everyone's contribution has been very significant in helping to cultivate and grow this thriving community that we are all a part of.
"Thank you for being a valued member of the disability sports community."
Guest of honour Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, said: "Tonight we are gathered here to celebrate and honour the achievements of all our athletes and recognise the contributions that you have made to sport in Singapore.
"The last two years have not been easy, but despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, many of you have achieved new milestones. All of you are winners and your hard work and commitment have made a difference."
Sportsman of the Year: Toh Wei Soong (swimming)
Sportswoman of the Year: Yip Pin Xiu (swimming)
Sportsboy of the Year: Colin Soon (swimming)
Sportsgirl of the Year: Siti Nurhayati Aksar Khan (athletics)
Team of the Year: Aloysius Gan Kai Hong, athlete competition partner (ACP) Gan Keng Aik and Yan Jia Yi, ACP Lanny Kwok (boccia)
Coach of the Year (High Performance): Mark Chay (swimming)
Coach of the Year (Developmental): Roland Tan (swimming)
Community Impact (Volunteering): Mariette Ong
Community Impact (Events and Initiatives): Riding for the Disabled Association
Singapore Lifetime Achievement: Tan Ju Seng