SINGAPORE - Acknowledging that it has been a challenging year for all athletes since the coronavirus outbreak, Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) chairman Teo-Koh Sock Miang says no medal expectations have been pinned on Team Singapore ahead of the upcoming Paralympics.
Instead, she hoped they would at least better their personal best results in their respective sports, adding that it would be "the cherry on the icing" if the contingent matches, or improves on, the three medals won at the 2016 Rio Games.
"But at this moment, we are just wanting to make sure our athletes perform their very best. It's been a challenging road to Tokyo... and so while we definitely would like to see medals being won, we're also mindful that the athletes have gone through a very challenging time," said Teo-Koh at a virtual press conference ahead of the Aug 24-Sept 5 Paralympics on Saturday (July 17).
"Our take to them is go there, do your best and make Singapore and your family proud, and also enjoy the experience. We're not trying to put any pressure at all on our athletes on medal counts."
Also present were chef de mission Shirley Low, shot putter and appointed flag-bearer Muhammad Diroy Noordin and para-archer Nur Syahidah Alim, who will both make their second Paralympics appearance in Tokyo.
Diroy, who finished ninth in Rio, said he was honoured to be chosen as the flag bearer and is looking forward to the Tokyo Games, where he hopes to improve on his personal best of 9.78m.
"Preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have been demanding, but it is important for me to remain focused and to commit to my training plan," said Diroy, who has been working on improving his speed and technique.
Ten athletes have been selected for the Games so far. Selection continues till July 30.
Potential medal contenders include world No. 1 para-archer Syahidah, 50m and 100m backstroke S2 defending champion Yip Pin Xiu and equestrian Laurentia Tan, who won a silver and three bronzes in three Paralympic appearances.
The rest of the contingent is made up of equestrians Gemma Foo and Maximillian Tan, and Games debutants Nur'Aini Mohamad Yasli (powerlifting), Steve Tee (cycling), Toh Wei Soong and Sophie Soon (both swimming). Tee, who is visually impaired, will be competing with his pilot, former national cyclist Ang Kee Meng.
It is the first time Singapore will be represented in powerlifting and tandem cycling at the Paralympic Games.
Teo-Koh added: "To have four debutants at Tokyo 2020 is a testament to our high performance system and talent identification process. We're confident this trend of debutants at major Games will help to sustain Singapore's performance at major Games in years to come.
"We will continue to develop up-and-coming athletes and new athletes and ensure they have every chance to be at their best."
Low also outlined the safety protocols for the athletes, which include being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and influenza, and adhering to a controlled itinerary in Tokyo.
Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said he was proud of the athletes and their team.
He added: "Over the past few months, my respect and admiration for our Team Singapore athletes have grown, as I learned more about how they have overcome the challenges, persevered and prevailed.
"Despite the uncertainties surrounding the Games, our athletes never lost focus. We will support you and stand behind you as One Team Singapore."
Stricter safety measures
Additional safety protocols for Team Singapore at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics beyond Tokyo 2020 Playbook:
• The whole contingent - athletes and officials - will be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and influenza before leaving for Tokyo
•All athletes have been training within a bubble to minimise disruptions to training plans
•Athletes will arrive in Tokyo five days before their competition commences and depart within 48 hours of their events ending
•In Tokyo, they will adhere to a controlled itinerary, ensuring minimal exposure to risks
•They will undergo daily Covid-19 tests
•The contingent will be issued with a travel-essentials kit prepared by the Singapore Sport Institute. This contains items such as face masks, sanitisers, anti-microbial spray can, antigen rapid test self-test kits and an exercise mat.