Paralympians inspire both young and old
S'poreans attend Paralympians' celebratory parade around town to welcome them home
For nine-year-old Teo Choon Khang, representing Singapore in the Paralympics might have seemed like a far-fetched idea a few months ago.
But after watching his idol Theresa Goh, who clinched a hard-fought bronze medal at the recently concluded Paralympics in Brazil, Choon Khang is now filled with hope.
The pupil at Cantonment Primary School suffers from cerebral palsy - a physical disability that affects movement and posture, and can include a range of associated physical and cognitive impairments.
Golden girl Yip Pin Xiu received by MP Denise Phua at National Library.TNP PHOTOS: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
But it has not stopped him from taking to the pool, just like Goh, since he was three.
On Saturday (Sept 24), he was among the hundreds of Singaporeans who turned up to support the 13 Paralympians, including Goh and double gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu, during their celebratory parade around Singapore.
Yip, 24, triumphed in the 50m and 100m backstroke S2 races. In Rio, she became the first Singaporean to win two golds in a single Paralympics, while also setting world records in both events.
Goh, 29, won her first medal after four Paralympics, taking home the bronze in the 100m breaststroke SB4 final.
Choon Khang, his younger brother and his mother, Madam Jennifer Ng, 49, were at the National Library, the parade's second pit stop, to welcome the para-athletes.
Madam Ng, who works in the education sector, said: "Watching Theresa has definitely encouraged him."
Choon Khang, who swims the backstroke, said he looks up to Goh because she is "strong and very good" in the water.
He hopes to one day swim in the Paralympics like his idol.
Madam Ng said: "He likes the sport very much. In fact, he has a swimming lesson right after this (event)."
Teo Choon Khang (far right), with his younger brother and mother at the Singapore National Library. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
The parade kicked off at the Sengkang Sports Centre, where about 100 people had turned up, some as early as 8.30am.
Among the crowd was Madam Lim Sook Wei, 45, a housewife, her husband, and their autistic son, Hugh Lee Shen Xuan, 10, a student at Pathlight School.
They had travelled from Jurong.
Madam Lim said: "We came here especially for Yip Pin Xiu, and my heart is still pumping.
"We are so glad to meet her here. We hope that our son is inspired and learns that nothing is impossible, and that it is okay to dream."
Mr Lee Yee Hern and Madam Lim Sook Wei with their son, Hugh Lee Shen Xuan, who has moderate autism. TNP PHOTO: JOSEPH LEE
The convoy outside The Pinnacle@Duxton. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
At about 10am, the 13 para-athletes were ushered into 11 Ferraris and two London cabs. They then made their way to the National Library.
The convoy passed through the Sengkang, Hougang and Serangoon heartlands and attracted cheers and waves from members of the public.
By the time the para-athletes arrived at the National Library at about 11.40am, a crowd of about 300 people - including students from Pathlight School and the Singapore Management University, where Yip is studying - had gathered.
They were also received by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua, who presented each athlete with a flower garland.
Pathlight School student Hock Kah Chin (below), 18, was overjoyed to share the stage with swim queen Yip - he and his schoolmates presented each para-athlete with a token of appreciation.
TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
"I watched her races on social media. I felt like I was there," he said.
"I think (Yip) Pin Xiu is strong, courageous and ever-ready to take on obstacles."
He added that he wants to represent Singapore in football or athletics. He is already representing his school in the 100m sprint.
The para-athletes were then driven to VivoCity, where another crowd of 300 people were eagerly waiting.
There, Ms Fu, who was the guest of honour, thanked the para-athletes for their efforts and said Singapore was "super super proud" of them.
The 13 Para-athletes at the One Team Singapore Celebratory Parade. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
At each pit stop, the para-athletes sportingly answered questions posed by the emcees.
For example, Yip, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, revealed she had been homesick as she had spent about five to six weeks overseas, including a pre-Paralympics training camp in Spain.
She had her brother join her in gorging on local food such as kway chap, fishball noodles and nasi lemak soon after she landed at Changi Airport.
Goh, who has spina bifida, revealed that she ate 20 sticks of ice cream before the Games.
She shared that she will be taking a break before hitting the pool again, and was due to fly to Ireland for a holiday just hours later.
Madam Rudianah, 36, an admin executive, and her son, Muhammad Syakir Raihan, eight, a pupil at Fengshan Primary School, were at VivoCity.
"They work really hard, it shows their strength and their spirit. These people are special," Madam Rudianah said.