New MCCY Minister Grace Fu confident Singaporeans will support Asean Para Games
Organisers launch community engagement initiatives at 50-day countdown event
There have been concerns that December's Asean Para Games (APG) may not be as well received as the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June.
While the likes of swimmer Joseph Schooling and bowler Jazreel Tan were already well-known figures even before the Games, Singaporeans generally know less about disability sports and para-athletes.
But the new Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu seemed confident that Singaporeans will turn up to support the APG from Dec 3-9.
"We definitely will go all out to rally the support and I think Singaporeans have shown over the last year how big-spirited they are and how much they feel about Singapore athletes," she said, at the sidelines of an APG roadshow at Bendemeer Secondary yesterday morning to mark today's 50-day countdown to the Games.
"This will be a great opportunity (for Singaporeans) to showcase the generosity of both welcoming the athletes and also showing the support for Singapore athletes."
Students of the school saw the premiere of the new music video for the song "Unbreakable", which was used at the SEA Games.
The new video features athletes such as shuttler Tay Wei Ming, sailor Jovin Tan and swimmer Theresa Goh.
Some students also took part in the "Gift-a-NILA" initiative, where they sewed and decorated heart-shaped mini-cushions, which will be stitched onto Nila plush toys and given to all APG athletes and officials.
Also, some 80 schools have applied for and received "Get RED-Y" kits, which include Team Singapore temporary tattoos, and cheer cards for their students to write their well-wishes to athletes.
In addition, 15 Team Singapore athletes - one from each APG sport - will be featured in posters, which will be put up at MRT stations, bus stops, and plastered on trains, taxis and buses.
"I think we are doing all we can do to reach out, market the event, raise awareness, and make it accessible," said Games organising chairman Lim Teck Yin yesterday.
"We are going the extra step to organise programmes for people who want to come to the Games as part of an organised group.
"Under ActiveSG, we are reaching out to companies and some of them want to activate their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programmes during the Para Games.
"We are doing all that we can do. I hope Singaporeans will respond."
Shuttler Tay, 27, is already feeling the buzz from all the outreach programmes, and will feature in the "Unbreakable" video as well as in posters around the island.
"I am really looking forward, it's my first time appearing on buses and MRT trains... I've been to the World Championships and the publicity for APG is more because it's closer to home," said Tay, who claimed the bronze in both the men's singles and doubles at the 2013 Para Badminton World Championships in Germany.
"My parents have not seen me play a competitive match in person before, because my competitions have always been overseas, and I will feel very proud to have them come see me during the APG in December."
It is also a very good time for us to really show how Singapore can accommodate people with disabilities on our transportation system. We will try our best to make it as comfortable as possible for them.
— Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, when asked on the feedback she received in letting APG athletes and officials take the MRT for the Games
Jovin aims for Asean Para gold and then ticket to Rio
He was on familiar grounds yesterday, contemplating what went on before and looking forward to the biggest event of his sporting life on home soil.
Sailor Jovin Tan and fellow alumnus, swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, were among the Singapore athletes who attended the Asean Para Games' 50-day countdown event at their alma mater, Bendemeer Secondary School.
He started his sailing journey when he was 15 years old - the same year he joined the school.
Fourteen years later, he has established himself as one of the country's biggest names in para sports.
Singapore will host the Asean Para Games for the first time and the Dec 3-9 event is extra special as it will mark the end of the country's Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Tan, who has a new crew in 71-year-old Anthony Teo - former partner Yap Qian Yin wanted to explore the solo route - is aiming for a win in the two-person boat hansa 303 class, and is confident the new combination will work.
"I'm the brains, he's the brawn," he told The New Paper yesterday.
Tan is one of the most experienced athletes in the Singapore contingent.
He has already had two appearances at the Asian Para Games (2006, 2014) and will be looking to his second Asean Para Games, after sailing was excluded from the previous edition.
He won a bronze at the 2009 Kuala Lumpur Asean Para Games, a gold at the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled (now called the Asian Para Games) and a gold at last year's Asian Para Games in Incheon.
He has also flown the Singapore flag at three Paralympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012).
The 29-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is not slowing down anytime soon.
He has had barely a break since Incheon last year, almost immediately going into training as he aimed for big performances this year.
When described as "hardcore", he said: "No choice lah. If you want to be the champion, you must sacrifice."
Admittedly, his priority will be the this year's IFDS Disabled Sailing Combined World Championships in Melbourne, which will end three days before the Asean Para Games' sailing events start.
A good finish in Melbourne will secure him a spot at next year's Rio Paralympics.
But he stressed that the Asean Para Games was also important, saying: "It gives my family and friends a chance to actually come and watch me in action. Most of the time, it's difficult.
"They don't know what is going on when I'm overseas; most of the time, I just tell them, 'Oh, I've finished competition already' or something like that."
Once his competitive career is over, Tan wants to be a sailing coach.
First, though, he needs to get a powerboat licence - a requirement for a sailing coach in Singapore.
He was not allowed to obtain the licence, which is currently available to only able-bodied people. However, Tan remains optimistic.
"Hopefully, I can change history (by being able to obtain the licence)," he said.
"Just as people with different abilities can now apply for driving licences, I hope to see this change so that I can apply for a power craft licence and continue to help build sailing.
"I cannot be a sportsman forever. I'll get old one day.
"So I hope to encourage more people to take up sailing and I also want to pass on my knowledge."