Paralympics: Wheelchair racer Norsilawati sets personal best at her first Games

RIO DE JANEIRO - Singapore's wheelchair racer Norsilawati Sa'at may be the last of five competitors in the women's 400m T32 final at the Rio Paralympic Games last night (Sep 10, Singapore time).

Still, she has reason to be proud of herself.

The 39-year-old IT freelancer set a new personal best of 1min 49.56sec, which is more than 4sec faster than her existing 1min 53.80sec, which was set in May this year.

She finished behind Japan's Yuka Kiyama (1:21.87) and America's Kerry Morgan (1:08.31).

The race was won by Canada's Michelle Stilwell at 1min 5.43sec, a new Paralympic record.

Norsilawati attributed her good performance to the cool weather in Rio-  - with daily temperatures averaging at 22 degree Celsius- and the raucous cheers of the crowd at the Olympic Stadium.

She was very excited to complete the first race of her debut Paralympics, though this is not her first time in Rio. She was in the Brazilian city 11 years ago.

Then, she made her international debut at the age of 28 at the 2005 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Games.

When asked how different it was this time, she said: "In 2005, I felt like a newbie in the sport, but now in 2016, I'm more confident as an athlete."

Her coach and team manager Jaffa Mohamed Salleh said he was delighted with her performance. He said the fact that she had a place to compete in the Rio Paralympics was an achievement in itself and their aim was simply to "try our best".

Besides assisting her onto her racing wheelchair, Jaffa also also has to spray her with water at regular intervals to lower her body temperature during training sessions because of her inability to perspire.

Jaffa said the cooler weather in Rio is helpful to cool her down faster. He added that it was "scorching hot" when she raced close to noon on Sept 10 Brazil time.

Norsilawati is the oldest para-athlete among Singapore’s 13-strong contingent.