Malaysian swimmer Yi Lin showed tremendous courage to overcome her pain to compete in the 400M freestyle S9. Photo: Stanley Cheah / SAPGOC
For a brief moment, pain looked to have got the better of Malaysian swimmer Yeo Yi Lin.
But in her moment of difficulty the 21-year-old offered those watching these 8th ASEAN Para Games a reminder that behind the wonderful talent and achievement on show, there is sometime pain and usually plenty of other deeper challenges for the athletes here.
With her fellow competitors in the 400 metres freestyle S9 having lined up on the blocks, ready to race, Yi Lin, remained in her chair, clearly in some discomfort.
Race officials called the other swimmers down from the blocks and Yi Lin’s coach came to talk to her. After some consultation he signalled to officials that the Malaysian would not be competing.
Yi Lin appeared to be visibly struggling ahead of her race. Photo: Seow Gim Hong / SAPGOC
But then, Yi Lin found that inner strength and determination that has characterised her young life and her struggles against two bouts of cancer and the amputation of a leg due to her bone cancer.
She indicated she was ready to go and to the cheers of the crowd she took her place on the blocks and dove into the water, taking head-on the challenge of one of the toughest distances in swimming.
Although Yi Lin finished last in the final, her courage was noticed by fans on social media with gifs and videos of her pre-race struggles circulating and winning her many admirers.
A team official speaks to Yi Lin to determine the extent of her condition prior to the race. Photo: Seow Gim Hong / SAPGOC
While the encouragement of the crowd was welcome, it had not been nerves that had threatened to get the better of Yi Lin. Quite simply she had been pushing so hard in the weeks and days before the competition to reach her peak for the APG that she had suffered some muscle strains.
“I’m actually studying in University in classical music and I just got back into full training and I wanted to reach the best performance for these Games so I pushed myself really hard and unfortunately I injured myself,” she said.
“I was feeling very uncomfortable and I had just had a very intensive warm-up. I was telling my coach this and then I heard the crowd shouting ‘you can do it, you can do it’ and so I thought - ‘I will do this’,” she said.
‘I will do this’. It could be Yi Lin’s motto for life.
Faced with steep challenges from her childhood diagnosis of cancer onwards, with the loving support of her family, Yi Lin has taken on those difficulties head first and her determination and positive outlook exude from her as she talks.
And while her full life involves much more than sport, including speaking on cancer and other issues with NGO’s, it is clear that swimming has played an important role in her progress.
Yi Lin overcame her pain to plunge headlong into the pool, demonstrating tremendous courage and spirit to finish the race. Photo: Seow Gim Hong / SAPGOC
“Before I had cancer at the age of 10, I was in Tae-Kwon-Do so after my amputation and cancer I changed to swimming to compensate my Tae-Kwon-Do as a sport. Everyone in my family loves sport, I had to do something”, she said.
“When you swim it is really peaceful and clears your mind and you think better. Swimming is the best exercise ever - I feel more focused for my studies and my music,” said Yi Lin, whose talents extend to playing piano, violin, cello, gu zheng (zither) and PiPa.
Yi Lin has relished the opportunity provided by the APG to meet with other athletes, sharing stories and drawing fresh inspiration.
“Its very nice, I learn so much and meet a lot of people, people with all disabilities,” she said.
And she also has a message for those watching the Games.
“Don’t think about our disabilities, think about our abilities”.