The curtain fell on Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sunday with a moving closing ceremony concluding an exciting 11 days of high quality sport packed with drama and inspiration.
For Team Singapore, it has been a memorable two weeks in Brazil with plenty of success, lots of signs of progress and optimism for what is to come in the four years before Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Just as how it started, the captivating display of fireworks signaled the end of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Photo: Sport Singapore
As with the Olympics in August, the glory came in the Aquatics Stadium where Team Singapore swimmers, Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh, won three medals between them – a fine reward for their incredible efforts over the years of training and competing.
After winning Gold in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Pin Xiu became the first Singaporean to win two Gold medals in the same Paralympics. The first Gold came in the Women’s 100m Backstroke (S2) event and she followed that up six days later with a second Gold in the Women’s 50m Backstroke (S2) event.
In between those triumphs for Pin Xiu, there was an emotional Bronze medal for Theresa who after dominating so strongly in regional competitions and appearing in every Paralympics since 2004, powered to her first Paralympic podium position with a Bronze in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke (SB4) event.
"For us it felt like a Gold, we are just so proud," said Theresa's mum after Theresa won the Bronze medal.
“I think when I look back at the big picture, Rio will have been a very memorable Games. Not just because I won two Gold medals but also because Theresa managed to win a Bronze medal after so many years of trying. Plus this time has been our largest team and it is nice to know that para sports in Singapore is growing and hopefully will continue to grow,” said Pin Xiu.
What has been noticeable about Team Singapore has been the way that athletes from different sports, living together in the Paralympic Village, have come together supporting each other and forming friendships.
“We have really bonded together as Team Singapore in our love for our country and love for our sport,” said equestrian rider Gemma Rose Foo, whose own story epitomised the spirit of the team.
Gemma’s Rio dream looked to have been shattered when in March of this year, during training in Germany, her horse bolted, startled by a noise, and threw Gemma, who has cerebral palsy, to the floor. In hospital, it was discovered she had ruptured her spleen and blood was leaking into her abdomen.
Read about Gemma's accident, her inspirations and how she overcame the odds to compete in Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
After taking three months off to recover, Gemma got back in the saddle and did everything in her power to make sure she was present with teammates, Maximillian Tan and Laurentia Tan in competition at Deodoro.
While the trio was not able to medal, against outstanding competition, particularly from British riders, they certainly made a positive impression and there is confidence that better results are to come.
“It is really important that people know that the athletes train really hard just to get here. It is not just about medals or winning but really about giving their all and giving the best performance they can give,” said Maximillian.
That spirit was certainly present at the Olympic Stadium for track and field where Team Singapore athletes laid down the foundations for their work in the coming years.
Long jumper Suhairi Suhaini, javelin and shot putter Muhammad Diroy Bin Noordin and wheelchair racer Norsilawati Binte Sa’at were all making their debuts in the Paralympics and experienced for the first time the roar of a big crowd at a major event.
While the only medals came in the pool, there were near-misses elsewhere.
TeamSG swimmers and medallists Yip Pin Xiu (left) and Theresa Goh (right) won three medals between them. Photo: Sport Singapore
Team Singapore archer Nur Syahidah Binte Alim showed her ability with a fine win over Canadian Karen West to reach the quarter-finals at the ‘Sambadromo’ and she came so close to making it even further, narrowly losing 137-135 to her Korean opponent Kim Mi Soon.
The boccia team of Nurulasyiqah Binte Mohammad Taha and Toh Sze Ning reached the semi-finals, taking fourth place overall, which was a strong achievement for a team which came into Rio ranked seventh in the world.
The highlight of their campaign came on ‘Super Saturday’ when they beat the sport’s traditional powerhouse Portugal 5-1 and then beat Greece 3-2.
“The team put in a great effort overall. We will work on the issues back home and then in four years in Tokyo, we will go again,” said Team Manager Kelly Chong.
On the water, sailors Jovin Tan and Yap Qian Yin showed plenty of endeavour and talent in their six races but unfortunately had to miss the latter stages of the competition after Qian Yin fell ill.
The delegation to Rio was the biggest ever sent by the Republic and for the golden girl Pin Xiu that is a sign of progress in para sport.
“I think 2008 was just the very start of more people being aware of para sports. There was more interest after that win but over the years, with our athletes doing pretty well there has been more and more support," she said.
“And it is really nice that a lot of Singaporeans give an equality. It is just very humbling to see that and of course as athletes we will continue to do our part by producing good performances”.
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