Grand homecoming for Team Singapore
SDSC's Raja hopes Singapore can develop more athletes instead of depending on Pin Xiu and Theresa
They may have missed last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, but 13 Team Singapore athletes will zip around town in supercars when they return home after recording the Republic's best showing at the Paralympic Games in Rio.
The group are scheduled to touch down 5.30am tomorrow at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Singapore Airlines flight SQ 67.
Thereafter, there will be an afternoon media conference with the two medallists - swimmers Yip Pin Xiu (right) and Theresa Goh - at the Sports Hub's Black Box Auditorium.
Earlier, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu had said: "When our Paralympians return after the Games, we will have a public celebration to honour their extraordinary achievements."
This promise will be fulfilled this weekend, as The New Paper understands that Sport Singapore, the Singapore National Paralympic Council and the Singapore Disability Sports Council have organised a celebratory tour for the 13 athletes, who will be chauffeured in luxury cars across the island on Saturday morning.
It is hoped that with increased awareness of para sports in Singapore, there will be more supporters joining in the celebrations.
Eight years ago, after the watershed Games at Beijing 2008, the first time Singapore medalled at the Paralympics, the sextet of Theresa Goh, Yip Pin Xiu, Jovin Tan, Desiree Lim, Eric Ting and Laurentia Tan were each driven in open-top Aston Martin convertibles.
FLASHBACK: Singapore's six Paralympians riding in open-top Aston Martin convertibles during a parade in 2008. ST FILE PHOTO
The parade, flanked by two Hippo buses with Team Singapore supporters and SDSC members, made its way from the SDSC office at Kallang to the city before ending at Orchard Cineleisure.
There, about 150 supporters cheered raucously as the athletes headed to an outdoor tent for a two-hour celebratory event.
That year, a 16-year-old Yip claimed Singapore's first Paralympic gold as she won the 50m backstroke S3 event to add to her earlier silver in the 50m freestyle S3.
Equestrienne Laurentia Tan was the first Singaporean to medal at the Paralympics when she won two bronzes, first in the individual championship test grade 1A and then in the individual freestyle test grade 1A.
Four years later at London 2012, Tan was the only medallist when she retained a bronze in the individual championship test grade 1A before improving to a silver in the individual freestyle test grade 1A.
This year, when Yip created history by becoming the first Singaporean to claim multiple gold medals in a single Paralympics when she won the 50m and 100m backstroke S2 finals, setting world records in both events in the process.
This is also the first time the Republic have won more than one gold medal at a Paralympics.
Fellow swimmer Theresa Goh's bronze in the 100m breaststroke SB4 event helped Team Singapore to their best haul as they finished 46th among 159 countries in the medal standings.
It has been 28 years since Singapore sent their first Paralympic contingent of eight to Seoul 1988 to compete in just two sports. This year, they sent 13 athletes across six sports.
SDSC vice-president Raja Singh, who was part of that 1988 team and competed in athletics, hopes the country will ride on this wave of optimism and success.
SDSC vice-president Raja Singh BH FILE PHOTO
He added: "It has been a big achievement for the team and it would be great to see the nation celebrate success regardless of ability.
"There has been an increase in effort, publicity and awareness since we hosted the Asean Para Games last year and we should build on that.
"For Tokyo 2020 and beyond, I hope we can develop more athletes. We cannot be depending only on Pin Xiu and Theresa for the medals. We should have others."Sport Singapore and ActiveSG have been pushing for inclusiveness and the programmes are already in place for us to scout talent and bring them to the next level. "But we need more athletes to come forward and commit, such that they can improve and reach an elite level for the Paralympics."
"The passing of Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad has affected us all and left the whole Paralympic movement united in grief."
— President of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven