Asean Para Games: Returning to heroes' welcome

Jason Chee greeted by his father Chee Kwok Chor at Changi Airport as Singapore's Asean Para Games contingent returned from their record away medal haul at Kuala Lumpur. The contingent were treated to a rousing welcome at the arrival hall by a party t
Jason Chee greeted by his father Chee Kwok Chor at Changi Airport as Singapore's Asean Para Games contingent returned from their record away medal haul at Kuala Lumpur. The contingent were treated to a rousing welcome at the arrival hall by a party that included Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Para Games contingent thankful for support from Singaporeans

His stirring Asean Para Games (APG) triumph against formidable odds had captured the hearts of Singaporeans.

So fittingly, para-table tennis player Jason Chee, who won his first individual gold medal in Kuala Lumpur, received the loudest cheers and the warmest of well wishes when the Singapore contingent returned home at Changi Airport Terminal 2 yesterday.

The 34-year-old navy serviceman smiled and shook hands with his supporters before sharing a quiet hug with his 75-year-old dad, Chee Kwok Chor.

True to his humble demeanour, he rattled off a long list of names to thank when asked what his gold medal meant to him.

"It's an amazing feeling. Thanks to my coaches and team-mates, and chef de mission and all the volunteers and caregivers for their support," said Chee, who won in the men's singles Class 2 event.

"Even the supporters that came to KL who took the time and effort to support us.

"Without their support we can't do as well. Their enormous support is wonderful."

The navy serviceman - who lost both legs, his left arm and three fingers on his right hand in a navy ship accident in 2012 - has endured "a very difficult year" by his own reckoning, after losing his right eye to cancer four months ago.

Wheelchair racer Shahrul Izwan being given a rousing welcome at Changi Airport's Terminal 2 along with his 2017 Asean Para Games teammates when the Team Singapore contingent returned home yesterday, a reception led by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-
Para-athletes return home with record haul: Wheelchair racer Shahrul Izwan being given a rousing welcome at Changi Airport's Terminal 2 along with his 2017 Asean Para Games teammates when the Team Singapore contingent returned home yesterday, a reception led by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin (back to camera, holding phone). The para- athletes achieved Singapore's best away Games performance with a record haul of 50 medals in Kuala Lumpur. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

MASSIVE SUPPORT RECEIVED

Even the supporters that came to KL who took the time and effort to support us. Without their support we can't do as well. Their enormous support is wonderful.

JASON CHEE, para- table tennis player who won gold in KL, extending his gratitude to those who rooted for the Singapore contingent.

Despite the loss, Chee said: "I told myself, day by day, life has to go on."

Yet, as he struggled to hit routine shots after his eye loss, few would have backed him to improve on the individual silver he won at the 2015 APG on home soil. Yet, his battling qualities served him in good stead as he defeated his Thai arch-rival for a cherished gold.

While his triumph inspired many, Singapore's other para-athletes also had many little victories of their own to savour, as they won 50 medals in KL, the Republic's largest away APG haul.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin was among the welcome party yesterday, effusively greeting each athlete as they entered the arrival hall.

He also spoke to many of the para-athletes' family members and friends while waiting for them to arrive, recording the conversations with his phone and later posting them with photos on Instagram.

"Much as we celebrate regular sports, I think the recognition is important for our para-athletes as well," said Mr Tan.

"More people are aware of the Games and these are all really important steps towards a much more inclusive society."

President Halimah Yacob also joined Mr Tan in feting Team Singapore's para-athletes.

She said in a Facebook post last night: "Congratulations to Team Singapore for the wonderful record medal haul at the 9th Asean Para Games!

"Your efforts have paid off. Many of you also demonstrated great resilience by overcoming personal challenges to get this far," she said.

"You have inspired us, and we are extremely proud of you."

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Big welcome at Changi Airport: str.sg/parateam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Returning to heroes' welcome'. Print Edition | Subscribe