SINGAPORE - Para-cycling tandem pair Emily Lee and Sarah Tan were Singapore's most successful athletes at last year's Asean Para Games (APG) with five medals, and it is not difficult to see why.
When Lee is asked what she likes most about the sport, Tan chimes in first before Lee gives the same answer a moment later.
"Winning, yes. I always look forward to winning," said the 48-year-old Lee, who is blind.
"From young I have always loved to race and cycling is a great opportunity for me to do so."
The duo's competitiveness was on full display on Sunday (May 27) morning in the Singapore International Para Cycling Cup (SIPC) as they finished third in the women's tandem category in 33min 55.78sec.
Just 0.5sec separated them from second-placed Malaysian pair Syahida Tajudin and Noraidillina Adilla (33:55.25) after 10 laps of the 1.7km circuit along Cecil Street and Robinson Road.
In tandem para-cycling, a visually impaired athlete, called the stoker, is paired with a sighted counterpart, who is called the pilot.
"The competition is always fierce with the Malaysians who train full-time while we only train two to three times a week," said Tan, 28.
"But we managed to stay with them in a pack and after that it was about our tactics."
Tan and Lee are one of three tandem pairs headed for October's Asian Para Games in Jakarta.
The other two comprise Lee's husband Jessen Ng and Steve Tee, and their pilots Tan Weijie and Ang Kee Meng respectively.
Tee and Ang (31:23.07) also won a bronze in the men's tandem, while Amanda Mok won gold in the women's handcycling category.
"I haven't competed at the Asian level before so this will be a good experience for me," said Tee, 36, who has retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disorder that involves a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina.
"Through competing we hope to reach out to more people to join us, both athletes and pilots."
A total of 42 athletes from five countries took part in yesterday's competition, up from 22 in the inaugural edition last year.
Qualifying points for the 2020 Paralympics were up for grabs, as the event was sanctioned by cycling world body Union Cycliste International.
Besides the tandem races, there were also solo, handcycling and tricycle categories, with the last featuring in Singapore for the first time.
Said Para Cycling Federation of Singapore president Christian Stauffer, who is also the national coach: "It's good to see our athletes keep progressing. There's no particular magic, just a lot of training, competing and hard work from people behind the scenes."