by Nicolette Mok
Para sailor and Asian champion Yap Qian Yin is going full speed ahead for the 8th APG.
Bringing home the nation’s first-ever Asian Para Games gold medal at one’s maiden international outing is certainly something to boast about.
But Team Singapore para sailor Yap Qian Yin, who achieved this very feat in Korea last year, begs to differ; she sees it simply as “a form of motivation”.
A focused and committed sportsperson, the 25-year-old is not one to rest on her laurels, especially with the 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG) – her first – just round the corner. After all, she is relatively a newcomer to the scene, and is certainly not about to let up in her quest for sporting excellence.
Picking up the sport in 2011 when three-time Paralympic sailor Jovin Tan introduced it to her, Qian Yin, a paraplegic, admitted that she had faced some initial doubts.
“I was very reluctant at first. Because I’m a wheelchair-user, I never considered sailing as a sport for me. I was afraid that I would drown! But the other sailors introduced the different boats to me and explained how they functioned. I soon learnt that the boats wouldn’t capsize, and I became more confident,” she revealed.
Explaining that their boats were all custom-made, she went on to relate how para sailing wasn’t very much different from the able-bodied version: “We use the same rules. There’s nothing very different between the two, except maybe in terms of control. We might not be able to move a lot in the boat, so the boats are designed specially to cater to this issue.”
Three years after she first took to the ocean, the full-time accounts assistant won that historic gold medal in the two-person keelboat race at the 2nd Asian Para Games, alongside Jovin, her competition partner.
“There was a lot of pressure, though, going into the Asian Para Games. It was my very first major Games. When everything ended, I actually felt very relieved. I always have very high expectations for myself, therefore I constantly seek improvement so as to not let my partner down,” she recounted.
Despite her success in Incheon last year, the diligent and humble individual demurred: “A win is just for one day. When the day passes, it’s over. It’s good to recognise a win, but you can never be complacent because there are so many more [races] ahead and there are a lot of areas I have to work on.”
Indeed, given her passion and talent, she still has many great years ahead as a competitive para sailor. Sharing what she loved most about the sport, she said: “There’s a sense of freedom when you’re out at sea. That’s the best part about sailing.”
“It takes a lot of discipline, and will help you to improve your time management skills. I also like that sailing is both a physical and mental sport. You have to keep thinking all the time,” she continued. “My focus is on the APG. Consistent training and actual water experience are very important.”
“Come Games time, it is really a show of how much work you’ve put in. Of course, if I’ve already done my best and the results still don’t show for all the effort, then I won’t be upset. I’ll just have to keep learning and find out how to get better for the next Games.”
Cheer Qian Yin on as she works towards yet another sailing title! The Team Singapore para sailors will be riding the winds on local waters at this year’s 8th ASEAN Para Games from 3 to 9 December.