Ability, not disability, is Asean Para Games' legacy
That's the wonderful legacy of the Asean Para Games, says SDSC head Teo-Koh
They have struggled to find sponsors, training venues, even failing to cobble together a full squad of 14 for the Asean Para Games (APG) last month, but things are really turning around for Singapore's cerebral palsy (CP) football team.
Coach Mohamed Zainudeen was told there was "no stock" when he asked the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to kit out his CP team in the Nike outfits that are worn by the sports' national teams.
They donned local brand Dreamatron en route to winning a bronze medal at the AGP, as they inspired a nation.
But, on Jan 16, captain Khairul Anwar and his team will finally be presented with those very Nike kits at a FAS ceremony cum dinner.
Perhaps a ceremonial sign of acceptance, the Nike kits are just the tip of the iceberg of good things coming the way of the CP team.
And all of this stems from the biggest legacy of the APG - awareness - and disability sport intends to keep fanning the flames of the warmth shown by Singaporeans.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Athletes' Achievement Awards Reception at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, where APG athletes received their monetary awards for medals won at the APG, Zainudeen put things in perspective.
"The medal, the money for those who got it, these are bonuses, what was really important for the team and for me was the awareness that it raised," he told The New Paper.
Eleven individuals and three teams received a total of $45,000 sponsored by the Singapore Tote Board and Singapore Pools.
Each individual gold medal is worth $2,000, up to the third gold, while a team event gold is worth $3,000.
Theresa Goh, Toh Wei Soong and Benson Tan were the biggest earners on the night, pocketing $6,000 each.
"The FAS has invited us for an event, a kit presentation and a dinner. It's not only them, every quarter is now showing support - the Singapore Sports Institute has opened its doors to us, and Sports Singapore is providing us with a training ground, the Jurong West Stadium - as part of the Active SG programme," said Zainudeen.
"And nothing, none of this, would have come without the awareness that was raised by the APG."
Teo-Koh Sock Miang, who heads the Singapore Disability Sports Council as well as the Singapore National Paralympic Council, was delighted with the effect the APG has had on the nation.
"There has been success on several fronts... the athletes showed Singapore that we should look at ability, not disability, and that's a wonderful legacy," she beamed.
And Teo-Koh is already looking to up the ante for disability sports here.
"There are only about 20 months till the next APG (in Kuala Lumpur in 2017)... and one of the tasks I will embark on going forward, is to look at how countries in the region provide for their athletes," she said.
While she was not directing this specifically at the FAS, Teo-Koh believes that the APG has made National Sports Associations (NSAs) look at disability sports differently.
"I think the Games have opened the eyes of the NSAs and we will look to work on our relationships with NSAs moving forward," she said suggesting that APG badminton players could benefit from sparring with able-bodied youth shuttlers.
But most of all, Teo-Koh was heartened by the warmth that all of Singapore showed throughout the APG.
She said: "An entire ecosystem of people came together to support the Games. It showed that Singapore can come together and help each other."
BY THE NUMBERS
45,000 The monetary awards handed out to 11 athletes and three teams for the Asean Para Games by the Singapore Tote Board and Singapore Pools last night.