Singapore's Asean Para Games hailed as best ever
Praise for athletes and officials at Para Games closing ceremony; sports minister Fu hails the human spirit
The official flame was doused when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared the 8th Asean Para Games - the first to be held in the Republic since the inaugural event in 2001 - closed at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Ballroom last night.
But a fire has been lit in the hearts of the 152 Team Singapore athletes, as well as officials and many more Singaporeans who have experienced or learnt about the exploits of the nation's representatives during the week-long event.
Outgoing Asean Para Sports Federation (APSF) president Zainal Abu Zarin declared it the "best Games ever in the 15-year history of our Games".
Before the gala dinner and closing ceremony, swim star Theresa Goh, Singapore's top athlete with five golds and a bronze, said: "I met a couple of kids with disabilities (during the Games) and I am really hoping that this will inspire them to start or continue, not necessarily in sports, but something they enjoy and can continue in the long term, so that they become more independent and lead a better live."
Singapore chef de mission Raja Singh said the organisation of the Games was beyond his expectations, and is hopeful more people with disabilities will be more receptive to taking up sports from now on.
He said: "I've been to many big Games, and the awareness and the publicity they get were much less than what we got.
"We really had good coverage of our sports and that has given Singaporeans the chance to know more about disability sports. There were a lot of people with disabilities who came and watched the Games, and through this we can see that the future is very bright for disability sports."
Team Singapore finished fifth in the overall medal tally, collecting their best haul of 24 golds, 17 silvers and 22 bronzes, with Thailand topping the 10-nation Games (95-76-79).
Raja is confident of growing the base of elite para-athletes, as well as fielding more para-athletes and improving Singapore's medal tally at future competitions.
He said: "I don't see an issue with keeping the current lot, they are inspired to continue with sports, and to bring new people into sports will be much easier than before.
"We want to make sure that we bring in more athletes, raise their standards to the next level and then we can expect more medals."
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu was effusive in her praise of the athletes and officials.
In her speech last night, the sports minister said: "You (athletes and officials) have shown us that the APG is not only about winning and sporting excellence, it is also about resilience and the indomitable human spirit."
She later passed the APSF flag to Zainal, who then handed it to Malaysia's Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports M Saravanan.
Kuala Lumpur will host the biennial Games in 2017.
Ms Fu added:"It has been Singapore's honour to host this Games. I speak for many Singaporeans when I say that what we have experienced in the past week, the life lessons that we have learnt from you, we will remember and cherish for many years to come."
It (Asean Para Games) was very good... Singapore have set the standard and like my Minister (Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin) said, even after the SEA (South-east Asia) Games, we are a bit unfortunate to be the hosts after Singapore, so we have to at least make sure we emulate what Singapore has done.
— CEO of the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games organising committee, Zolkples Embong
It has been Singapore’s honour to host this Games. It has truly been our privilege to be touched and inspired by the courage and determination of our athletes.
— Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu