Coach Mick Massey and Pin Xiu posing for the camera with the Gold medal. Photo: Sport Singapore
Winning a Gold medal in any sport takes incredible dedication and commitment but to win Gold while coping with the constant struggle of a degenerative disease, that takes something truly special.
Team Singapore swimming coach Mick Massey has worked with a number of para-athletes throughout his career and after watching Yip Pin Xiu triumph on Friday in the 100m Backstroke S2, with a world record time, eight years after she won Gold in Beijing, he paid tribute to her remarkable character.
“It is phenomenal really to stay in the sport for that length of time and to keep pressing on with everything else that goes with being disabled and having a degenerative disability. It is an incredible achievement. She is an amazing woman,” said the Englishman.
What makes Pin Xiu so special, says the man who was worked alongside her throughout her preparation for Rio, is her willingness to always push herself forward.
“She is so determined, she is a great athlete. I have coached a lot of great athletes. But what I would say is that she is one of the athletes that, if we have gone through a set three times and I am thinking she is looking a little tired, and I say “Okay, PX we will wrap it up after this one” she is the girl, and these are rare, who says ‘no coach, I want to go again’.
“That is the star quality that she has and you don’t get that very often at all. She has got that real determination inside her, she is a really strong willed character,” he added.
Massey said that the role of a coach of para-athletes, involves understanding the limits that a condition can sometimes impose on a competitor but that the woman he calls ‘PX’ makes that task easier with her communication skills.
“On any given day it is possible for PX to have a bad day and you are always fighting against that, when you are training you have to be conscious of that all the time, with an AB (able-bodied) athlete you can go “just go for it” but you have to be really aware with an athlete with a disability that you don’t push her over the edge. She is a really good communicator so I always feel confident that if she is in trouble she will tell me,” he said.
But the message Massey has been getting throughout this year was that nothing was going to stop Pin Xiu from getting another Gold medal to follow her after she triumphed in the 50m Backstroke in S3 at the Beijing Games eight years ago.
“I think from January this year we have been on a really phenomenal climb. As daft as it sounds you are almost waiting for something to go wrong but it didn’t.
From early on in the year, we have continued on a steep path of performance all the way through and as a coach even when we were in (competition in) Berlin, she trained morning and night, more than we normally do. She pushed it beyond the limit and she went 2 minutes 10 seconds on the last day in the 100m and I was shocked,” he said.
The qualification times indicate that Pin Xiu has a real chance of adding a second Gold in Rio in the 50m Backstroke and Massey believes that can happen.
“The job is not done yet. We have four days to prepare and we will start on that tomorrow. We have hit our targets and hopefully in the 50m we can be where we want to be,” he said before reflecting again on the remarkable young woman he works with.
“She has worked so hard in the camps we have done. Worked so hard and never once complained or moaned or got down. She just laps it up.
“She is a fantastic athlete”.
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