SINGAPORE - After becoming the first female para-powerlifter to represent the Republic at the 2017 Asean Para Games and 2018 Asian Para Games, Nur Aini Mohamad Yasli is making history again.
She will be the Republic's first representative in the sport at the Paralympics after she was one of four more athletes selected to make the trip to Tokyo by the Singapore National Paralympic Council on Friday (July 9).
She told The Straits Times it was a surreal feeling as she has always wanted to represent Singapore in the Paralympics.
She said: “It’s a childhood dream of mine, especially growing up watching Theresa Goh compete at the Paralympic Games.
“I still feel like I’m dreaming and I’m still not sure this is really happening but it’s definitely a very nice feeling to be able to finally achieve your lifelong dream.”
The Aug 24-Sept 5 Games will be only her second competition in two years and while the 29-year-old admitted she was nervous ahead of her Paralympic debut, she said she will just focus on the process of getting her technique right.
Besides training thrice a week, she is also preparing herself mentally and has sought the advice of para-archer Nur Syahidah Alim, who competed at the 2016 Paralympics.
“I asked her how to calm yourself down during major Games and she’s very open and willing to share so I’m glad there are helpful Paralympians around to help athletes who are new to this journey,” said Aini, who finished fourth in her first Asian Para Games outing in 2018.
At last month’s 11th Fazza Dubai 2021 World Para Powerlifting World Cup, Aini lifted a personal best of 81kg in the women’s Up to 45kg class to clinch the bronze medal. Before that, her last competitive outing was the World Para Powerlifting Championships 2019 in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan.
While Aini is hoping to achieve a new personal best in Tokyo, she also hopes her achievement will create more awareness for her sport and its benefits.
“People have the misconception that persons with disabilities (PWDs) or women shouldn’t be doing strength training because you might get injured or look bulky or masculine but there are more benefits to it.
“Over the years, with training, I feel like I’m getting stronger despite my condition. I hope this opportunity of me going to the Paralympics shows (PWDs) of the presence of this sport in Singapore,” said Aini, who was born bow-legged and underwent surgery in 2003 when she was 10 to insert two metal splints into her legs to straighten them.
Also announced on Friday were equestrians Laurentia Tan, Gemma Foo and Maximillian Tan, who will feature in the para dressage team event for a third time. Laurentia, who won a silver and bronze medal at London 2012 and two bronzes at Beijing 2008, and Foo will also compete in the para dressage individual grade I while Maximillian will compete in the para dressage individual grade II.
Laurentia, who will be making her fourth Paralympics appearance, said: "There is no greater feeling than representing your country at the highest level.
"After all that we have been through the past year, I am elated that the team's efforts and sacrifices have paid off. Now, just as in past editions, we will give our best and strive to do Singapore proud."
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong congratulated the four athletes in a Facebook post, saying: “Can’t wait to see all of you in action and wearing our flag with pride!”
The four join six other athletes who were selected last month. The six are swimmer and double world record holder Yip Pin Xiu, world No. 1 para-archer Nur Syahidah Alim, shot putter Muhammad Diroy Noordin and Games debutants Steve Tee (cycling), Toh Wei Soong and Sophie Soon (both swimming). Tee, who is visually impaired, will be competing in the Izu Velodrome with his pilot, former national cyclist Ang Kee Meng.
Yip will be looking to retain her titles in the 50m and 100m backstroke (S2), the events in which she holds the world record. Syahidah and Diroy will be competing in their second Paralympics after finishing 13th and ninth respectively in Rio five years ago.
The Tokyo Paralympic Games will start on Aug 24. Selection continues till July 30.