Toh delivers first para sports medal

Swimmer Toh Wei Soong's bronze is Singapore's first para sports medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Swimmer Toh Wei Soong's bronze is Singapore's first para sports medal at the Commonwealth Games.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

GOLD COAST • The pep talk given to Toh Wei Soong by his coaches before his S7 50m freestyle final last night was to leave everything out there in the pool.

It was advice he took literally as the 19-year-old left a small piece of his left big toe on the starting block when he dived into the water.

The excitement of racing in his first Commonwealth Games swimming final meant he felt no pain at that point. More importantly, the adrenaline drove him to a historic bronze medal.

With his parents Stella Hu and Toh Yiu Kwong, and national swimmers Quah Ting Wen and Roanne Ho cheering from the stands at the Optus Aquatic Centre, he clocked 29.83sec to finish third behind Australian Matthew Levy (28.60) and South African Christian Sadie (29.65). It was Singapore's first para sports medal at the quadrennial Games since para sports were added to the programme in 2002.

Toh had clocked 30.35sec in the morning heats to qualify as the third-fastest swimmer of the six finalists and knew he could go faster. He just had to push himself harder.

He only noticed his toe was bleeding while awaiting the victory ceremony and used a napkin as a makeshift bandage.

He told The Straits Times: "The way I have to push off from the block, if I do it properly the toe will rub against it and I've been doing it a lot these last few days.

"I just felt the start could be improved and I really just wanted to get a perfect swim. I've been training for several months now and I know my body condition is optimal, where I want it to be. So the only thing I can improve on in this short time is my technique."

Toh was diagnosed with transverse myelitis (an inflammation of the spinal cord, which restricts the use of his legs) when he was two and began swimming competitively when he was eight.

He shot to prominence at the 2015 Asean Para Games (APG) in Singapore, winning three golds. He matched that haul at last year's APG in Kuala Lumpur.

The newest addition to his trophy cabinet may not be golden but its importance is undoubted.

Toh said: "I can't wait to go back to share this medal with everyone in Singapore. They're all responsible for this."

Jonathan Wong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Toh delivers first para sports medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe