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A special breed of swimmers

Some came with walking aids or had to be assisted by their caregivers as they were missing a lower limb.

Others were in wheelchairs, their limbs were visibly thin and under-developed due to muscle-control problems.

Huddled in one corner was a group listening intently to their coach who was giving last-minute instructions, in sign language and other forms of hand gestures.

But as the races progressed through the scorching heat punctuated by a brief shower at mid day, it was evident to the 100-strong audience that beneath the disabilities burnt a strong sense of steely resolve and competitive spirit. Once in the pool, the swimmers, regardless of their disabilities, were in their element and took to the water in ways no different than their able-bodied peers.

This was no ordinary swimming event held at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex on Saturday 29 September. It was the 2nd SPH Foundation National Para-Swimming Championship, sponsored by the philanthropic arm of SPH and organised by the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC). It is also a highlight in SDSC’s annual sporting calendar.

All 113 swimmers taking part had varying physical and intellectual disabilities. They came from special schools and associations, as well as mainstream schools and local swimming clubs. The event is open to all disabled swimmers aged 7 years and above. They are classified according to their functional disabilities and are eligible to participate in events covering all four swimming strokes, ranging from 50 metres to 400 metres in both individual and relay races.

Each individual swimmer had to adopt a unique sometimes unorthodox style to compensate for their physical disabilities. The hearing-impaired swimmer relied on visual cues and hand signals while visually-impaired swimmers could count on the reassuring voices of their coach, caregiver or one of the 50 on-duty volunteers to guide them on their next moves.

In attendance as the event’s guest-of-honour was Mdm Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports. Also present were Assoc Prof Mohan Menon, President of SDSC and Ms Ginney Lim, General Manager of the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation.

Also taking part in this year’s event were national para-swimmers Theresa Goh and Yip Pin Xiu, who had recently returned to Singapore following their commendable exploits at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Ms Ginney Lim, General Manager of SPH Foundation, said: “We are pleased to support the SPH Foundation National Para-Swimming Championship for the second consecutive year. This event reaffirms the Foundation’s commitment to build and empower communities. Through sports, we are able to showcase the talent and determination of these exceptional athletes, in spite of their disabilities.”

Our heartiest congratulations to all participants for embodying courage and determination to achieve sporting excellence in spite of their disabilities.

 

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