Walk in the shoes of para-athletes

President Halimah Yacob taking on the guide's role for visually impaired runner Patricia Poo during the Inclusive Sports Festival at the Singapore Sports Hub yesterday. The festival offers the public a chance to experience how para-athletes compete i
President Halimah Yacob taking on the guide's role for visually impaired runner Patricia Poo during the Inclusive Sports Festival at the Singapore Sports Hub yesterday. The festival offers the public a chance to experience how para-athletes compete in sport.PHOTO: SPORTCARES FOUNDATION

Inclusive festival at Sports Hub allows public to experience events for physically disabled

Ever wonder what goes through the minds of para-athletes when they compete?

Head down to the Singapore Sports Hub to find out in the second edition of the Inclusive Sports Festival which ends today.

The Aug 3-5 festival - organised by the SportCares Foundation and a part of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's Disability Sports Master Plan - offers members of the public the opportunity to step into the shoes of a para-athlete through sports tryouts.

The inaugural event was held in July last year at Our Tampines Hub.

Among the sports visitors can check out at the OCBC Arena today are archery, boccia, goalball and wheelchair basketball.

President Halimah Yacob was the festival's guest of honour yesterday in her capacity as SportCares patron, spending her morning touring the stations and gamely trying her hand at a few of the activities.

In one of the highlights of her visit, Madam Halimah took on the guide role for visually impaired runner Patricia Poo, chatting amiably and even spontaneously breaking into a run.

Said Poo, a member of local running group Runninghour which pairs able-bodied runners with people with disabilities: "I was telling her about the things a guide has to do when running with a blind person. For example, we are linked by a shoelace and the guide has to give a lot of instructions as we run."

Her actual guide for the day was Liz Koh, a human resource director who has known Poo since she joined Runninghour four years ago.

"In our group, we serve as guides for the physically and intellectually disabled as well. We're basically the eyes and ears for them and it's all about communication and trust," said Koh.

Aside from para-sports, members of the public can also try out aquatic sports like sailing, canoeing and scuba-diving at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, as well as rock climbing in Kallang Wave Mall.

Manufacturing planner Gopan Tharakamkunnath had a go at kicking a ball into the goal while blindfolded. He was at the festival with his three-year-old son Dev to support his wife, one of the volunteers at the event.

"I'm here with my son so I was not expecting to try the sports myself but it was quite fun. You really have to hear where the goal is in order to aim," said the 32-year-old.

Singapore Disability Sports Council president Kevin Wong lauded the event as a good platform to showcase what being physically active means for the disabled community.

"Sometimes people just don't know what it's like for our para-athletes and nothing beats experiencing it for yourself," said Wong.

"It's not just able-bodied people but members of the disabled community too. Some of them decide they are interested in a sport after trying it and they sign up with us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline 'Walk in the shoes of para-athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe