National para-swimmer Toh Wei Soong going for gold in WPS World Series
Multiple para-swimming champ is happy that S'pore is host for May 10-12 meet
Multiple gold medal-winning para-swimmer Toh Wei Soong is looking forward to competing in a familiar pool, as Singapore readies itself to host the fifth leg of the World Para Swimming (WPS) World Series for the first time.
The third edition of the series was expanded to seven countries, with Singapore being the first and only Asian host. It will be at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from May 10 to 12.
The other legs include Australia (Melbourne), the United States (Indianapolis), Brazil (Sao Paulo), Scotland (Glasgow), Italy (Udine) and Germany (Berlin).
"Having the competition in South-east Asia is a massive boost to the region's paralympic movement," said Toh at a press conference at Sport Singapore offices at the Sports Hub yesterday.
"It provides a hub for the region to come together and race... and we are looking forward to putting on a good showing to raise public awareness of para-swimming."
In the first leg in Melbourne, who played hosts for the first time, Toh finished joint-fourth in the 50m freestyle. He also clocked personal bests in the 50m backstroke (37.90sec) and 200m free (2min 25.21sec).
Next month, the 20-year-old will be aiming for gold in the 50m and 100m free in the S7 classification (transverse myelitis, a condition that limits the use of one's legs).
He will be joined by Theresa Goh, Yip Pin Xiu and 12 others in representing Singapore in the home leg, which will see more than 150 competitors.
They will be assessed via the WPS multi-class point system, that was introduced in 2017.
This assessment allows para-swimmers from different disabilities to swim in the same events, with scores calculated against the world record of their respective classes.
Instead of recognising the first to finish, the standardised system rewards the best performance.
Toh, who prefers the time-based system, finds that the point assessment encourages diversity.
However, Danielle Moi, 19, noted that it would be harder to earn a podium finish, especially for classes that traditionally had fewer competitors.
Of the 15 national para-swimmers, seven will make their international debut in the series.
One of them is Colin Soon, 15, the youngest of the cohort, who will compete alongside his sister Sophie, 22.
Sophie, who will tackle four events at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, is excited for her brother to compete internationally and believes that hosting the world series is "excellent for our new blood".
"They'll get to compete with high-level athletes that they weren't able to before, at the comfort of their (home ground)," she said.
The world series is backed by local philanthropic organisation, Kenn Foundation, which has sponsored $100,000.
The 15 para-swimmers also designed personalised plush bears to be auctioned, with proceeds going to the Singapore Disability Sports Council.
Sophie, who described her bear as "simple-chic", says it reflects her personal aesthetic in her design.
"Us swimmers are usually dressed rugged in shorts and slippers after training... but we can also doll up and look cute when we want to," she said cheerily.
"Having the competition in South-east Asia is a massive boost to the region's paralympic movement."
- National para-swimmer Toh Wei Soong