Recognising achievements and contributions in disability sports
Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Singapore Disability Sports Awards, at The Carlton Hotel
06 August 2019
Mr Kevin Wong
President, Singapore Disability Sports Council
Chairman, Singapore Disability Sports Awards 2019 Organising Committee
Mr Han Ah Kuan
Haw Par Corporation Limited
Athletes, coaches, officials,
Families and friends,
- Good evening. It is my pleasure to join you this evening as we recognise those who have made outstanding contributions to the development of disability sport in Singapore – in particular, the athletes, coaches, volunteers and organisations who have worked hard to make it all happen.
All of us can play our part to build a more inclusive society through sport
- I would like to start by commending the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC), its partners, staff and volunteers, for their tireless efforts in expanding opportunities for persons with disabilities in Singapore to learn and enjoy sports, and more importantly, for bringing together persons of all abilities through sport, thereby building a more inclusive Singapore.
- This year, in addition to organising outreach, learn-to-play programmes and local competitions, the SDSC also hosted the Singapore 2019 World Para Swimming World Series in May, and the World Para Bowling Series last month. Our athletes did us proud, with our swimmers bringing home 1 Gold and 2 Silvers, and our keglers with a haul of 2 Gold, 5 Silver and 2 Bronze medals. International competitions such as these, not only provide good exposure for our Singapore athletes on home soil, but also raise the profile of disability sport and encourage others to take up a sport and get active.
- Complementing the efforts of the SDSC and building on the legacy of the 8th ASEAN Para Games that Singapore hosted in 2015, Sport Singapore (SportSG) launched its Disability Sports Master Plan in 2016, and has been building up its programming and infrastructure capabilities to encourage and support persons with disabilities to take up a sport. In the last three years, SportSG has established four Centres of Expertise, introduced Inclusive Gyms in our ActiveSG Centres, held regularly runs of the “Yes I Can!” learn-to-play programmes, and organised three Inclusive Sports Festivals in conjunction with GetActive! Singapore.
- The results have been encouraging, and we have witnessed a significant growth in the number of persons with disabilities participating in physical activity at least once a week, rising from 28% in 2015 to 51% in 2018. Behind these numbers, there are many inspiring stories of how sport can make a positive difference to people’s lives. Take for instance, Mr Tan Whee Boon who lost his limbs to an infection in 2015. Mr Tan was encouraged by SDSC, the Amputee Support Group and SportSG, to try out various sports and soon discovered his passion for wheelchair rugby. I first met him when I went swimming with him when we introduced swimming facilities in our pool for persons with wheelchair. He was very tentative and seemed to enjoy it, but when I met him again several months later, he told me that now his love is wheelchair rugby; and recently, just last weekend I met him playing wheelchair rugby that he loves, and he was very aggressive and I could see his life, energy and passion in him and I think he made the right decision in going with wheelchair rugby. The point is I think his life would be quite different without the sport, and I think sport has given him a new lease of life. He has not looked back since, and has gone on to represent Singapore in the sport. Such stories are testament to the joint efforts by the Government, social service organisations, volunteers, and corporates over the years.
- Last week, I announced the $12 million SportCares Communities of Care Fund that will provide greater access to sport for the community, including persons with disabilities and those with special needs, by supporting ground-up initiatives from the public. I look forward to seeing more people and organisations come forward to partner SDSC, my Ministry and SportSG, as we work together to building a more inclusive society through sport.
Singapore Disability Sports Awards
- The Singapore Disability Sports Awards make a return this year, after the last awards in 2008. This is made possible by the generosity of the Haw Par Corporation. Haw Par has set a good example of how individuals, corporations and society at large can take up a shared responsibility in supporting our athletes. I hope more will be inspired to contribute their part. Indeed, SDSC has shared with me that it is determined to organise the sports awards annually going forward, and I hope more sponsors will step up to help them make this a reality.
- At this juncture, I would like to congratulate all 29 nominees of the 2019 Singapore Disability Sports Awards tonight. Athletes, coaches, volunteers, organisations – all of you are winners in your own right, having inspired us all with your dedication, actions and achievements.
- Take for instance, nominee for the Sportswoman of the Year Award, Team Singapore equestrienne, Ms Laurentia Tan. Whilst continuing to excel at the world championships, Laurentia also finds time as an advocate for mental health, and actively supports Audiovisibility, a platform for hearing impaired artists to showcase their talents.
- There is also nominee for the Coach of the Year Award (Development) category, Mr Hansen Bay. Hansen’s passion for coaching Goalball spurred him to train as an educator of the International Paralympic Committee, where he regularly shares his expertise and experience with other coaches in the region.
Sport teaches us to give our best in all we do, to make a positive difference to those around us
- Beyond our 29 nominees, there are many unsung heroes. Coaches, teachers and mentors who encourage and nurture our athletes. Parents, families and caregivers, whose love and faith in our athletes help fuel their passion and spur them on to greater heights. And of course, the athletes themselves, whose courage, passion and determination, inspire so many around them to dare to dream and accomplish the impossible.
- There is a special award that will be given out this evening – the Lifetime Achievement Award - to the late Mr Frankie Thanapal Sinniah, to honour his dedication and contributions to the development of disability sport in Singapore. He served wholeheartedly in many capacities, as a pioneering athlete, as an advocate for the movement, and as a mentor and leader. Amongst the many roles he took on, Frankie was formerly President of the SDSC, and was also Singapore’s Chef de Mission for the Beijing and London Paralympic Games. I look forward to presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the family later on in this evening’s programme.
- Looking at the remarkable journeys of our 29 nominees and at the life of the late Mr Frankie Thanapal, I draw the conclusion that Sport teaches us that we can give our best, whatever our situation and in spite of the obstacles that we face – and that our best can make a difference to those around us, to our communities, and ultimately to Singapore. I hope that all of us can draw strength and inspiration from these role models, and also encourage and support one another along the way.
- In conclusion, I would like to again express my heartiest congratulations to all nominees this evening. In addition, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the SDSC and its partners, individual and corporate sponsors like the Haw Par Corporation who support the important work that they do, and everyone who has worked hard over the years to take disability sport in Singapore to the next level.
- Thank you, and have a pleasant evening ahead.