It was not the first time that the Athletes’ Achievement Awards and Appreciation Reception, an event that recognises the successes of Team Singapore para athletes at major Games, had been held.
This most recent edition, which took place on Wednesday, had been a warm and relaxed one that prompted Paralympic swimmer and medallist, Theresa Goh, to describe it as a “gathering of familiar faces”.
Yet, there was something different about it. Some felt that it was because para sports programmes and initiatives are becoming more commonplace in Singapore; others attributed it to the largest contingent and bumper medal haul the nation achieved in Rio this year.
They weren’t wrong. Ultimately, though, the most significant change was what the above factors pointed towards – a positive shift in Singapore’s commitment towards developing para sports, as well as a new generation of para athletes.
Fully supported by the Tote Board, the awards ceremony and dinner was attended by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Chairperson of the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) and President of the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) Kevin Wong, Chief Executive of the Tote Board Fong Yong Kian, Ambassador of the Federative Republic of Brazil to Singapore Flávio Soares Damico, and various corporate sponsors and partners. It was also, for the first time ever, broadcast live on social media.
(L to R) Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Chief Executive of the Tote Board Fong Yong Kian, Chairperson of the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) and President of the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) Kevin Wong and TeamSG swimmer Yip Pin Xiu.
Team Singapore Rio Paralympians, along with their families, coaches and officials, were honoured that evening. Monetary awards were also presented to Theresa for her Bronze medal achievement at the Games and, of course, to her teammate Yip Pin Xiu for her historic double Gold medal accomplishment.
Sharing his hopes for the para sports community following this year’s stellar results, Kevin Wong said: “This sets the stage for our next journey towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
“Our Paralympians, [have been] inspiring their community, family members, caregivers, and administrators, [showing them] that disability does not disqualify. I have invited our partners and stakeholders here to witness and to see the potential of sports and to partner us as we engage and encourage more individuals with disabilities – and their families – to take up sports and be physically active,” he elaborated.
Ms Grace Fu, too, brought up Sport Singapore’s Disability Sports Master plan as she addressed the athletes and guests, revealing that there would be new programmes and more inclusive gyms in the coming years.
“We are at the early stage of our journey in developing disability sports, and it’s a lot for us to do – to build infrastructure, to build capabilities, to build awareness, to build ecosystems for more sports. We are not losing sight of the many more persons with disabilities, with special needs, who can benefit from exposure to sports, even as we broaden our talent pool of future para athletes,” she elaborated.
Double Gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu (left) and Bronze medallist Theresa Goh at the Athletes’ Achievement Awards and Appreciation Reception.
Indeed, as the para sports community celebrates how far it has come, it is not letting up on its efforts to reach out to potential athletes and sponsors. The SNPC, for one, hopes to achieve this through the form of a newly launched YouTube channel (SG Paralympics), which will feature resources on “all things para sports”, according to Kevin.
Referring to the 20% cut that SDSC would be receiving from the medallists’ prize money, Pin Xiu noted: “We envision having a bigger base of athletes. So even when we want to pick a few for the elite level, there will be people. And really, we hope that these funds will go to the training and development of younger athletes, as well as talent scouting.”
Theresa, too, concurred: “There has to be continuity and long-term goals. It has to be a commitment and something that they want to do. We want to be able to see growth in our sport."