APG 2015: More than just a sporting meet
Muscles screaming, lungs gasping, she can hear the cheers, but she cannot see the crowd. She threw her hands to the wall and immediately grabbed the lane dividers before clinging on to her close friend Theresa Goh.
She did not know it then, but Yip Pin Xiu had just broken the world record by more than one second, while swimming three classes above her classification.
“I watched the race (on Tuesday night) and everybody have been telling me that if I didn’t pick myself up in the finish. I would not have made it,” Pin Xiu said, speaking to the media just before the Games’ closing ceremony.
“Normally I am dying at the last five metres,” she added with a laugh.
Pin Xiu was in a relaxed mood, laughing and answering questions and even had time to do her make up before the interviews. With two silvers, one gold and a world record in the bag, it has been a productive outing for country’s official flag bearer for the Games.
But throughout the Games, one underlying remark that almost every athlete has mentioned is the surprise at the level of support that they are getting.
“If I could pick one takeaway (from the Games) it would be the cheers I hear at the stadiums… Hearing the Singaporeans there cheering for us it just made me happy,” said Pin Xiu.
“Happy is an understatement.”
Singaporeans are supposed to be pragmatic, results driven — a trait drilled from young in order for us to survive, they say. But I didn’t see that in this seven-days-long Games. From the stands, we saw value in participation, we saw hope in brutal onslaughts but we never stopped cheering our lungs out no matter the score.
Singapore lost all three matches in wheelchair basketball but it did not stop Singapore fans from staying back after the match to cheer these players as they left the indoor stadium.
And who can forget the cerebral palsy football team captain Khairul Anwar, who has been christened as our own Beckham, with his spectacular left-footed goals. Despite falling 0-5 and 3-5 to eventual finalists Thailand and Myanmar respectively, Singaporeans never wavered in their support.
Earlier this year, Disisable did a video with the CP footballers and Khairul told us of his dream for the ASEAN Para Games: “What I really want is awareness (so that) the society can notice that we exist.” Now strangers are stopping them off the football pitch to take selfies with them. Khairul even had a surprise visit by the Golden Balls himself, who said Khairul’s goals were “amazing”.
There is no doubt that the para sports community have taken the stage now. Leslie Chia, 48, Hospital Administrator, who also suffers at muscular dystrophy, said the games have been inspiring for the disabled community.
“I think (the Games) definitely (have helped the disabled community). Telling people that it’s basically an inclusion issue that as long as we make necessary adjustments, nothing is impossible,” she said.
“Of course it’s not that the disabled can do everything on their own, they can’t. But together hand in hand, they can experience things that people never thought possible.”
But perhaps equally important, now is not the time to compare our Para Games athletes against their SEA Games counterparts — tempting as it might be — because it would only further divide rather than unite the #oneteamsg that we have all been trumpeting.
This is not the time to compare what brand the jerseys of each national team received, how much funding each sport received and what are the key performing indicators that each sports organisations have hit.
The ever-illuminating Rohit Brijnath puts it best: “How do you measure hardship and calculate courage? Is it harder to swim as a double amputee than run when you can’t see? We’re a sporting planet which wants to quantify everything into numbers, medals and points to separate people but this Games was all stories and few stats.”
With this year’s SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games, Singapore has had two invigorating Games that has the chance to spark a sporting movement in our tiny city-state. Let this not be the end of the Games and the zenith of our sporting journey but rather the start line where we begin backing and pushing our local athletes — in all categories — towards greater heights.
Article by: Stefanusian.com