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Celebrating our Team Singapore athletes’ achievement at the Asian Para Games 18

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Athletes Achievement Awards (AAA) Ceremony 

31 October 2018

Mr Kevin Wong

Chairman of the Singapore National Paralympic Council and

President of the Singapore Disability Sports Council,

Mr Fong Yong Kian

Chief Executive of the Singapore Totalisator Board

Distinguished guests,

Athletes, coaches, officials,

Friends and families

1. Good evening to all! I’m so delighted to join all of you tonight to celebrate the achievements of our athletes.

We can achieve the extraordinary through hard work, dedication and support

2. First of all, to our Asian Para Games (APG) 2018 contingent – you have done Singapore proud with your best ever Asian Para Games result of 10 medals – 3 Golds, 2 Silvers and 5 Bronzes! The results are even more impressive considering that more than half the contingent comprised debutants participating in the Asian Games for the first time. Well done and congratulations!

3. There are many challenges that our athletes have had to overcome in their journey to the Asian Para Games. Their success would not have been possible without the efforts of the team surrounding them. This includes many of you here tonight – family, caregivers, coaches, officials, the list goes on. I will like the athletes to join me today to give your caregivers, supporters and volunteers a round of applause to thank them. Also, not forgetting the tireless efforts of the Singapore National Paralympic Council, Singapore Disability Sports Council and SportSG.

4. Surrounded by the love and support of those who care for them, our athletes have displayed great perseverance, sportsmanship, and grit. Long-jumper Suhairi Suhani suffered a hamstring tear in April, putting him out of action for over a month. With the support of his medical team, psychologist and nutritionist, he made a strong recovery in time for the Games, and even achieved a season best of 6.6m. Well done, Suhairi! Bowler Rex Tan fell and cracked his ribs a few weeks before the APG. Undeterred, he kept up with his training and won a bronze medal for Singapore. Congratulations, Rex!

5. To our athletes, you have shown commitment to your sport, your determination to excel, and the pride you feel in representing Singapore.You have inspired all of us to rise above our challenges, and pursue our dreams.

Importance of a strong support ecosystem

6. We want our athletes to excel at Major Games like the APG, and have been developing our High Performance Sports system to support our aspiring Team Singapore athletes. Athletes can tap on a variety of support from SportSG, such as sports science and sports medicine services, and a variety of spex grants to defray training and competition expenses.Beyond the sporting arena, our spexEducation and spexBusiness schemes support our athletes in their educational and career aspirations, taking into account their sporting goals.

7. It is encouraging to see our efforts bearing fruit. Out of the 10 medals won by Team Singapore at the APG, seven were won by spexscholars. Swimmers Toh Wei Soong and Yip Pin Xiu both struck gold and won three medals each, while Boccia player Toh Sze Ning along with her team mates won a silver. Other Team Singapore athletes -bowlers Diane Neo and Rex Tan, as well as cycling duo Emily Lee and Sarah Tan – contributed to our medal tally with one silver and two bronzes.

8. Beyond Government, the support of partner organisations has also been vital in the development of High Performance Sports system. Please join me in thanking the Tote Board for sponsoring tonight’s awards, along with other sponsors who have supported our athletes over the years. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.

9. Corporate Singapore’s support for our athletes comes in many forms – beyond financial and in-kind contributions, some companies offer flexibility and encouragement to our athletes, to help balance their career and sporting commitments. One example is Hewlett-Packard where powerlifter Nur’Aini Mohd Yasli works as an analyst. With the support of her supervisors and colleagues, Aini trains up to 3 times a week and is given flexibility to work from home after her training. Some of her colleagues even travelled to Jakarta to support her at the APG.

10. Indeed, the pursuit of sporting excellence is a huge team effort and we welcome the support of many more partners along this journey. Together we can help our athletes fulfil their aspirations and fly the Singapore flag.

Better access and participation for persons with disabilities

11. At the Welcome Back ceremony two weeks ago, I called for more persons with disabilities or special needs to come forward and take up sport. Through the Disability Sports Master Plan, we have been working with many partners to provide better access and opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in sport. Through sport, they interact with more people, and gain confidence in what they can achieve. Ultimately, we want Singaporeans of all abilities to fully participate in society, and make Singapore a more inclusive home.

12. Since the launch of the Master Plan in 2016, we have set up four Centres of Expertise1 for Disability Sports, and five Inclusive Gyms2 around Singapore with a total gym attendance of 2,500 persons with disabilities over the last two years. These offer sports facilities and programmes tailored to persons with disabilities. This year, with the support of Temasek Foundation Cares, we have launched the Play-Ability programme, bringing together more than 200 people of all abilities at selected ActiveSG sport centres and schools.

13. We have also organised two editions of an Inclusive Sports Festival as part of GetActive! Singapore.This year’s festival reached out to more than 22,000 participants, including members of the community and persons with disabilities. These Festivals not only encourage persons with disabilities to keep active, but also provide opportunities for greater interactions and bonding amongst persons of all abilities.

14. There is still more that we can do to encourage persons with disabilities to participate in sport. In the coming years, we will concentrate on growing participation in our inclusive sports programmes, build up and enhance infrastructure, as well as develop capabilities for the disability sports ecosystem. Let us continue to work together as One Team Singapore, to foster a more caring, cohesive and confident society through sport.

Conclusion

15. I would like to share with you the story of runner Zac Leow. In 2013, Zac had an accident on his bicycle, causing him to fall over and hurt his head. As a result, Zac became paralysed and his doctors said that he would be fortunate to walk again. But Zac was determined to get back on his feet. He took it upon himself to re-learn how to walk, and eventually managed to start running competitively. He is now in the midst of completing his PhD in Sports Science at the University of Western Australia.

16. Zac participated in the 1,500m T37/38 athletics event at recent APG. While he did not win a medal, he is not giving up; and has resolved to do better in future competitions.

17. Like Zac and all the other athletes who have competed in the APG, your stories of sheer grit and determination are truly inspirational. It fills my heart with great pride to see all of you wear the Team Singapore jersey, and representing our nation. Regardless whether you medalled, your journeys have shown how persistence can turn setbacks into extraordinary achievements. We need all of you as role models for the rest of Singapore, for persons with disabilities, for persons with all abilities to see how we can challenge ourselves to do much more than we thought was possible.

18. Once again, my warmest congratulations to all involved in this year’s APG on a successful outing. To our athletes, I wish you the very best as you continue to train hard and compete.As you set your sights on doing Singapore proud in the 10th ASEAN Para Games in Manila in 2020, know that we are behind you every step of the way.

19. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the evening!



1 Four Centres of Expertise have been set up in Sengkang, Toa Payoh, Jurong West and Heartbeat@Bedok

2 Five Inclusive Gyms have been set up at Enabling Village, Our Tampines Hub, Heartbeat@Bedok, Toa Payoh, and Jurong West

Last Updated: 02 November 2018

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