October winner: Toh Wei Soong

ST Star of the Month: Not content with conquering Asean and Asia, swimmer Toh Wei Soong sets sights on Tokyo Paralympics

Singapore swimmer Toh Wei Soong receiving his Star of The Month award from (left) Jennifer See, general manager for F&N Foods and Lee Yulin, sports editor of The Straits Times.
Singapore swimmer Toh Wei Soong receiving his Star of The Month award from (left) Jennifer See, general manager for F&N Foods and Lee Yulin, sports editor of The Straits Times.PHOTO: SYAMIL SYAPARI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Toh not content with conquering Asean & Asia, wants to test himself at Paralympics

He returned home from his first Asian Para Games outing in Incheon, South Korea, empty-handed in 2014. But national swimmer Toh Wei Soong bounced back this year to clinch two gold medals in the 50m and 100m freestyle S7, and a bronze in the 100m backstroke S7.

His sterling achievements at last month's Asiad in Jakarta have landed him The Straits Times Star of the Month award, backed by F&N's 100Plus, for October.

After receiving the award at the Vineyard restaurant at HortPark on Tuesday, he said: "Going back to the Asian Games this time, having become stronger in my sport, I was thrilled to see how far I had improved, as well as to see how far those who had begun with me, both my teammates and opponents, had come since those years ago.

"I would say this is the best achievement in my career so far, but I'm reluctant to because it can imply that I have reached a zenith instead of a marker on a longer journey."

Despite contracting Transverse Myelitis - a rare neurological disorder that affects the muscle nerves of his lower limbs, restricting their use, and is not curable - at age two, Toh has indeed gone from strength to strength in his swimming career.

Since he started representing Singapore in 2013, the 20-year-old has won five gold and two silver medals at the 2015 and 2017 Asean Para Games.

The former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student then took a gap year, after graduating from the International Baccalaureate programme last year.

GOING THE DISTANCE

Accolades and awards are not why I swim; I swim for myself and to see how far the road goes.

TOH WEI SOONG, para swimmer, on what drives him in his pursuit of excellence.

Before his breakthrough at the Asian Para Games, Toh also secured bronze in the 50m freestyle S7 for the Republic's first para sports medal at the Commonwealth Games since para sports were added to the programme in 2002.

But he is not satisfied with conquering just Asean and Asia, and the avid reader, who enjoys the works of novelists such as Ernest Hemingway and Guy de Maupassant, aims to write himself into another page of local sporting history.

Up next is the World Para Swimming Championships in Kuching from July 29 to Aug 4 next year, before the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

Toh said: "I have still some ways to go in terms of preparation, and that is a good thing because it means there are many more avenues I can take to become faster.

"The foundation of my swimming is the desire to become stronger and to see how far I can go with my body and will.

"Hence, if becoming world champion is a result of this dream, then I welcome it.

"But accolades and awards are not why I swim; I swim for myself and to see how far the road goes."

ST sports editor Lee Yulin said: "Wei Soong's achievements at the Asian Para Games were a breakthrough not just for him but also for Singapore, as his two golds helped propel the nation to a total of three golds - a record haul.

"More importantly, he recorded personal bests in all three of his events, a sure sign of progress, and we are confident we will see more of him in the years to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2018, with the headline 'Tokyo games on swimmer's radar'. Print Edition | Subscribe