Coming to you from Solo, Indonesia, the 11th ASEAN Para Games (APG) kicked off with a bang as the fireworks sparkled over the Manahan Stadium. Over 2,300 participants from 11 countries across Southeast Asia have gathered in Indonesia to take part in 14 sports across eight days from 30 July to 6 August.
The biggest para sports event of Southeast Asia was opened by Indonesia’s Vice President Ma’ruf Amin. He was accompanied by Minister of Youth and Sports Zainudin Amali, president of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF) Osoth Bhalivai and Mayor of Surakarta and chair of the Indonesian ASEAN Para Games Organizing Committee (INASPOC) Gibran Rakabuming Raka.
The evening started with teenage singer Putri Ariani belting out the Indonesia national anthem, followed by a cultural segment which included Indonesia folk song Bengawan Solo and wayang puppet theatre, a showcase of the rich history of the host nation.
The para athletes, representing their respective countries, then took their oath and witnessed Indonesia’s shooting para athlete Hanik Puji Astuti light the ceremonial flame.
Popular dangdut singer Nella Kharisma rounded up proceedings with a performance of the APG 2022 theme song ‘S for E’, which stands for Striving for Equality – the tagline of the games this year, as fireworks lit up the night sky above the stadium.
“We look forward to find many more new talents and world champions from this event. Their determination, courage, and commitment continues to inspire us to scale greater heights and live up to the games tagline of striving for equality,” said Mr Gibran in his opening address.
Having hosted the 6th APG in 2011, Solo, the host city in Central Java also known as Surakarta, has an extensive history and the facilities for holding international disabled games.
Para swimmer Sophie Soon was Singapore’s flagbearer for the night as she led the proud Singapore contingent of 83 strong. The 36 para athletes are participating across nine sports, 16 of whom are making their APG debut.
“There are many debutants here that we have for this meet. It’s very exciting to get to know them and get to know the swimmers. Unfortunately, with the swimming events in Semarang, the swimming team is far from everyone else, but I’m just as excited to be part of a big team and I’m looking forward to the competition and I really hope that everyone back home can support Team Singapore at these Games,” says Ms Soon, who is at her second outing. Her first ASEAN Para Games was in Singapore in 2015.
“I had been looking forward to represent Singapore alongside my sister, Joan, at the APG that was due to be hosted by the Philippines. Unfortunately, the Games were cancelled. While I was disappointed, the women’s goalball team saw this as an opportunity to improve our physical strength, skills and technique. We have prepared well for the Solo 2022 APG and we are raring to go,” said Ms Inez Hung who is also making her APG debut in Goalball.
Para badminton athlete Ang Chee Hiong is thankful for the opportunity and to those who have supported him along the way, especially “coach Simon and coach Cedric and coach Yaofen at Aspire Badminton”.
“I also want to say ‘hi’ to my two kids and my wife back in Singapore. I hope my participation will inspire them to greater heights, to achieve and aspire what they want to in life,” he said.
The oldest in Team Singapore is 57-year-old para table tennis athlete Tan Kok Leong and the youngest is 14-year-old para swimmer Janelle Tong, a debutante.
“I congratulate all para athletes on their selection for the Solo 2022 ASEAN Para Games. We are especially proud to see many debutants achieving an important milestone in their para sports journey. We are confident that our para athletes and officials will fly the Singapore flag high at the Solo 2022 ASEAN Para Games. We wish them all the best in the final phase of preparation for the Games,” said President of the Singapore National Paralympic Council Dr Teo-Koh Sock Miang.
Team Singapore’s para athletes flew to Solo, Indonesia on 26 July, and were received at a welcome ceremony the following day. Leading up to the opening ceremony, the para athletes were in training sessions and dining with hosts and fellow para athletes from the region.
The APG is a biennial multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities. Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, both the 2019 APG in the Philippines and 2022 APG in Vietnam were cancelled. Indonesia stepped forward and volunteered to host the games, ensuring that the region’s best athletes did not miss yet another opportunity to compete.
The most recent APG was held in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where Team Singapore para athletes bagged 50 medals – nine golds, 17 silvers, and 24 bronzes.
In Solo, the 3X3 wheelchair basketball for the men and women got off to an early start before the opening ceremony. The team from the Philippines beat host Indonesia 15-10.
Catch the sporting action live here at TheHomeGroud Asia, and cheer Team Singapore’s para athletes on as they strive for gold in Solo Indonesia for the 2022 ASEAN Para Games.
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