SINGAPORE - Yip Pin Xiu was crowned the Sportswoman of the Year at the Singapore Disability Sports Awards, which returned after an 11-year absence, on Tuesday (Aug 6).
The 27-year-old, who has muscular dystrophy, was recognised for beating competition from higher-class swimmers at the 2018 Asian Para Games to clinch a gold in the women's 50m backstroke S4 (S1-4) event and two bronzes in the 50m freestyle S4 (1-4) and 100m freestyle S4 (S1-4) events.
Muhammad Diroy Noordin was named the Sportsman of the Year. Last year, he claimed a silver and bronze at the Nottwil World Para Athletics Grand Prix in the men's javelin multiclass and shot put multiclass events. At last year's Asean Para Games, he was fourth in the F40 men's shot put.
Last September, Yip became the youngest Nominated Member of Parliament and has been a vocal advocate for the inclusion of para-athletes in sports.
She had made history by becoming Singapore's first Paralympic champion in 2008 in Beijing after winning the 50m backstroke S3. That year, the last time the awards ceremony was held, she had been named the Sportsgirl of the Year.
Since then, she has gone on to claim another two golds in the 100m back S2 and 50m S2 at the 2016 edition in Rio.
Yip was one of 10 award recipients at the Carlton Hotel on Tuesday evening. She was nominated alongside para-equestrienne Laurentia Tan and para-bowler Diane Neo.
Tan, herself a Paralympic medallist, had been nominated for winning a silver in the individual championship Grade I event at the quadrennial Federation Equestre Internationale's (FEI) World Equestrian Games and being ranked world No. 4 in the FEI Para Dressage Ranking last year. She is also an advocate for mental health and audiovisibility (a platform for deaf artists to showcase their talents).
Neo was cited for bagging a silver in the TPB4 women's singles event at the Asian Para Games last year.
Another swimmer, Toh Wei Soong, was also feted for his achievements at last year's Asian Para Games. He was named the Sportsboy of the Year.
The 20-year-old attained bronze during the S7 50m freestyle event at last year's Commonwealth Games and a gold in the S7 50m and 100m freestyle events at the 2018 Asian Para Games.
"I am honoured to receive this award and I would like to dedicate it to my coaches Ang Peng Siong, Alex Ang, Osamu Gushi, my family for the hard work and dedication they put in over the past few years that have allowed me to come this far. I would also like to thank SDSC for presenting to me this honour. I hope that it will set the precedent for para-athletes to adopt and in the years to come, we'll see many more recipients for this award," he told The Straits Times.
"It's tremendously important that we have awards to recognise the achievements and efforts of people from the para-sports community. I'm very grateful to Haw Par Corporation for sponsoring this event and for believing in the dream that everyone, in the ideal that everyone can succeed in their own ways regardless of whatever condition they may be in."
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Taufik Abdullah, son of the late Frankie Thanapal Sinniah, in recognition of the latter's efforts in championing disability sports.
Polio had left Thanapal Sinniah with a weakened left leg, but that did not stop the former swimmer and national athlete from pursuing sports and winning two gold medals and a bronze in the first Far East & South Pacific Games for the Disabled Games in Japan back in 1975.
He continued to promote disability sports, serving as the Singapore Disability Sports Council's president from 2004 till early 2012, and was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2001 and a Public Service Star in 2010.
He died in 2012 at the age of 62.
This year's awards ceremony was supported by Haw Par Corporation. Executive director of Haw Par Corporation A.K. Han presented a cheque of $120,000 to SDSC president Kevin Wong at the event.
Apart from supporting the event, the donation will support Boccia training and competitions, and a sports bursary programme to help persons with disabilities with low-income backgrounds to pursue sports.
Wong said: "I feel immensely moved by today's occasion for several reasons. The support is an important form of acknowledgement that our athletes with disabilities and officials deserve equal respect for their hard work and achievements."
The guest of honour, Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said: "Sport teaches us that we can give our best, whatever our situation and in spite of the obstacles that we face - and that our best can make a difference to those around us, to our communities, and ultimately to Singapore.
"I hope that all of us can draw strength and inspiration from these role models, and also encourage and support one another along the way."
Yip welcomed the event's return, saying: "It's a good thing to continue. Firstly, to recognise the athletes and also for people to start to come together to give athletes more support, whether it's in terms of volunteering or corporate sponsorships."
In the 11 years that have passed, one thing has remained constant for Yip: Her desire to raise awareness for disability sports. Her role as an NMP has given her a platform to be a voice for the para-sports community.
"I've learnt a lot from this stint. It's really opened my eyes to what else needs help. I've definitely raised issues when it comes to para-sports, also trying to get national sports associations to take on a bit more responsibilities when it comes to para-sports and I think we're moving in the right direction."
She now has her sights set on qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Sportsboy: Toh Wei Soong (swimming)
Sportsgirl: Maisarah Mohamed Hassan (athletics)
Sportsman: Muhammad Diroy Noordin (athletics)
Sportswoman: Yip Pin Xiu (swimming)
Team: Boccia BC3 Pairs (Lim Yu Fei Faye, Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha, Toh Sze Ning)
Coach (high performance): Alex Ang Yock Seng (swimming)
Coach (development): Hansen Bay (goalball)
Community Impact (events & initiatives): Amputee Support Group
Community Impact (volunteering): Choh Ssu Yee Wendy
Lifetime Achievement Award: Frankie Thanapal Sinniah