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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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