Stronger Together, Singapore: It’s time to get behind our ASEAN Para Games athletes

  • It has been five years since the last ASEAN Para Games was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
  • Having put the pandemic behind them, the 37-strong contingent of Singapore’s top Para Athletes will be going all out at the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Solo, Indonesia, from 30 July to 6 August 2022.
  • The team hopes to bring home medals, which, under the revised Athlete Achievement Award, will earn them $5,000 for an individual gold, $8,000 for a team gold medal $8,000 and $16,000 for gold a team sport. 
(Photo source: TheHomeGround Asia)
(Photo source: TheHomeGround Asia)

As Singapore readies itself for its 57th National Day, with the floating platform bustling with rehearsals, roads around the Marina Bay areas are closed and the roar of fighter jets flying over the skies, 37 Singaporeans have been battling challenges — both physical and mental — on a daily basis prepare themselves to fly the Singapore flag so they will be at their peak to compete against the best of ASEAN at the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Solo Indonesia.  

Echoing this year’s National Day theme song Stronger Together, they are hoping all Singaporeans will come together to show their support for their fellow Team Singapore athletes. 

“we are fire

through the night

we’re the light into the morning after

through the wire

in this fight

and from the flames, we will soar forever

we will rise, rise, we will rise

Stronger Together”

“grateful

faithful

ignite a spark

may our deeds define us

and our words remind us

all for one and one for all

now the road ahead may have just begun

we will leave no one behind

it’s in times like these we learn to live”

One of the lines in this year’s National Day theme song reads, “Leaving no Singaporeans behind, in times like these we learn to live” and very often, the achievements our para-athletes such as swim queen Yip Pin Xiu inspire all.

President Halimah Yacob even hailed their can-do spirit and believing that beyond sports, Singapore’s para-athletes “will serve as a beacon for Singaporeans to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams”.

Yip, The Straits Times Singaporean of the year 2021 nominee and former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) was recognised for her disability advocacy and for encouraging more inclusiveness in Singapore’s society. Her call for parity for the cash quantum for medals won at major international competitions sparked intense soul searching and reflections among Singaporeans, many calling for both abled and disabled athletes to receive the same level of financial recognition. 

RELATED: Opinion: It’s time our disabled athletes get $1M and experience inclusion in sport

Heeding her call, the sporting fraternity stepped up. Together, SportSingapore, the Ministry of Community Culture and Youth (MCCY), Tote Board, Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) and the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) banded with corporate partners such as DBS Bank to provide additional support and funding for the para-athletes of the island republic.

And representing the government, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry Alvin Tan will be at the games together with representatives from SportSingapore, SDSC and the Singapore Sports Institute. He, too, had called on Singaporeans to support and cheer the para-athletes on. 

“May our deeds define us, and our words remind us, all for one and one for all”

The question then is: With just 26 more days to the games, will we see the same level of coverage that was given to the SEA Games be accorded to the ASEAN Para Games 2022? The SEA Games, held in Hanoi in May, was streamed live on MeWatch and other Mediacorp channels.

MediaCorp coverage of the 31st SEA Games (Photo source: Mediacorp/Facebook)

Can Singaporeans truly understand and support their athletes competing tirelessly if they are not even able to watch the games live? Many feel that this gap in the sporting ecosystem needs to be plugged so that better inclusiveness in sports can be realised. 

Since Singapore’s bid to host the 2029 edition of the SEA Games was accepted by the SEA Games Federation, the hope here is, similar to the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, the disability equivalent, the ASEAN Para Games will also be hosted here.

These games are just seven years away and Singapore should take every opportunity to showcase and introduce these competitive sporting experiences to Singaporeans to not only educate but also inspire everyone.

The 12th man in football refers to the fans and the notable impact that fans can have on how the teams perform. Since there are more than five million people in Singapore, why not become the 38th member of Team Singapore to cheer the 37 athletes on at the upcoming games and celebrate their tenacity and achievements.

Singapore we can do better

With the last two editions of biannual games postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there had been many challenges. Despite these and a five-year wait, the sense of motivation among the 37 para-athletes in the Singapore, including the 16 debutants, contingent is high. They will be participating in nine para-sports. 

Chef de Mission Mr Low See Lien together with Team Singapore Athletes (Photo source: (Photo source: TheHomeGround Asia)

Leading the contingent for the first time, Chef de Mission Low See Lien believes his role is all about ensuring that the athletes have the necessary support they need to succeed. He stresses that his focus is on “the athletes and the structures we can put in place around them to ensure they’re supported and to optimise their performance”.

True to Mr Low’s and the SNPC’s focus, Singapore’s para-athletes can look forward to increased financial rewards should they do well in Solo and subsequent major games, leading up to the 2024 Paris Paralympics.  

An individual gold medal at Solo is worth $5,000 and a team gold $8,000. Team sports will earn $16,000 for their gold achievement. Previously, athletes were only rewarded $2,000 and $4,000 for each individual and team gold medal won.

Paralympians Theresa Goh and Yip Pin Xiu receiving their awards at the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) Athletes’ Achievement Awards and Appreciation Reception in 2016. (Photo source: TODAY)

MCCY and SportSingapore also announced that the Para Sports Academy, formed in March, will lower the barriers to entry to para-sports and enlarge the talent base of athletes. To date, 130 participants across six sports have benefited from the programmes. Mr Tan said the academy’s programmes will be expanded into wheelchair rugby, futsal blind football, para badminton and para table tennis. 

The academy will also be focusing on coach development, upskilling, training and establishing a coach’s community of practice standards. Mr Tan said this will “support persons with disability to live more actively and work with partners in the para sports sector to provide more sporting opportunities”.    

It is heartening that the sports fraternity, government and partners have come together to support the disabled community. Perhaps Yip’s earlier call for greater inclusiveness and the national discussion on parity in sport was a much-needed wake-up call that Singapore needed.

Support The Defy Limits Fund, an initiative by the Singapore Disability Sports Council.

Flying Singapore’s flag proudly

The Singapore contingent will be led by flag-bearer Sophie Soon and her guide dog, Orinda. A seasoned national paralympic swimmer, Ms Soon recently brought back the Silver medal in the Women’s 100m SB12 Breaststroke event at the Para Swimming World Championships and is the reigning Asian recorder holder for the event.

Sophie Soon and guide dog Orinda together with MOS Alvin Tan, Chef de Mission Mr Low See Lien and SNPC president Prof Teo-Koh Sock Miang ((Photo source: TheHomeGround Asia)

The following athletes will be representing Singapore and TheHomeGround Asia wishes the teams and officials the very best!

1. Lim Qi Mao, Archery  

2. Nur Syahidah Alim, Archery

3. James Ethan Ang  Kai Meng, Athletics

4. Maisarah Mohamed Hassan, Athletics

5. Muhammad Diroy Noordin, Athletics

6.  Muhammad Nur Ariq Yaakub, Athletics

7.  Siti Nurhayati Ali Aksar Khan, Athletics

8.  Suhairi Suhani, Athletics

9. Ang Chee Hiong, Badminton  

10.  Aloysius Gan Kai Hong, Boccia

11. Ho Jing Rui, Gareth, Boccia

12.  Tan Yee Ting, Jeralyn, Boccia

13. Neo Kah Whye, Boccia 

14. Toh Sze Ning, Boccia 

15. Tan Yong Zhao, Edwin, Chess

16. Aw Peiwen, Christina, Goalball

17. Inez Hung Hui Min, Goalball

18. Joan Hung Hui Xin, Goalball

19. Norliana Mohamed Ajam, Goalball

20. Nurul Natasya Idrus, Goalball

21. Lin Shuangchun, Powerlifting  

22. Colin Soon Jin Guang, Swimming

23 Chan Wei Siang, Darren, Swimming

24. Fu Ai-Lin Nicole, Swimming 

25. Tong Jing Xuan, Swimming 

26. Liauw Thiam Hee, Jeremiah, Swimming

27. Moi Yan Ting, Danielle, Swimming

28. Sophie Soon Jin Wen, Swimming

29. Wong Zhi Wei, Swimming 

30. Caleb Lee Jia Xuan, Table Tennis 

31. Claire Toh Shumin, Table Tennis 

32. Fong Wei Cheng, Table Tennis  

33. Muhammad Dinie Asyraf Huzaini, Table Tennis 

34. Mu Yuguang, Table Tennis 

35. an Kok Leong, Table Tennis  

36. Ting Chee Keong, Eric, Table Tennis 

37. Yeo Kwok Chian, Aaron, Table Tennis 

 

 

MOS Mr Alvin Tan, Sophie Soon, Mr Low See Lien and Prof Teo-Koh Sock Miang and the Singapore Para Contingent (Photo source: Kevin Wong/THG)

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