President Halimah shows her support for Tokyo-bound athletes
Madam Halimah visits Olympic-bound athletes, urges S'poreans to give backing
She is the President of Singapore, has completed a Master of Laws and was conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws. But what few know is that President Halimah Yacob has a deep appreciation for speed on land and in water.
As Team Singapore ramp up preparations for the July 23-Aug 8 Olympics, she and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Edwin Tong visited Tokyo-bound fencer Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman and badminton players Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
At a doorstop interview, she revealed to The Straits Times that her favourite Olympic sport is athletics. She still marvels at Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt breaking the 100m world record in 9.69 seconds at Beijing 2008 and then setting his Olympic record in 9.63sec at London 2012.
Madam Halimah, 66, said: "I've always been fascinated by athletics... It is so amazing, it is a test of human endurance and spirit. When you see them running, it's like watching human wheels running.
"Watching him (Bolt) is like watching an art form in itself."
Still, the most unforgettable Olympic moment for the President was when Joseph Schooling won Singapore's first gold medal on Aug 12, 2016 in the 100m butterfly in an Olympic record of 50.39sec.
She said: "That was a tremendous feeling because it was something all Singaporeans shared, even those who may not have much interest in sports and never watched any sporting event.
"It's that one moment of glory on the world stage, in an area where the whole world was competing, and we, Singapore, were small but very outstanding."
Yesterday, Madam Halimah spoke with Loh and Yeo and tried her hand at fencing with Kiria. She also shared her experiences from London 2012, which she attended as Minister of State (Community Development, Youth and Sports).
Loh, 24, said: "We feel very encouraged because the President and minister took the time from their busy schedules to visit us and ask about our well-being."
Madam Halimah urged Singaporeans to support the Tokyo-bound athletes, saying: " I know they are doing their best, and they have our support and backing. Although we are not there, we have their backs."
So far, 21 Singaporeans from 10 sports have qualified for Tokyo 2020, with sprinter Shanti Pereira expected to receive a wild card and a female swimmer set to be nominated under the universality quota.
In a Facebook post last night, Mr Tong also shared that MCCY, Sport Singapore and the Singapore National Olympic Council had worked together to "scenario plan, prepare, work out contingencies, and also undertook a table-top simulation exercise to prepare for as many eventualities as possible".
A crisis ops centre, based in Singapore, has also begun operations since the table tennis players arrived in Shimada, Japan on Sunday to start their final Olympic preparations, while technology and mobile apps will be used to keep in touch with the contingent and monitor their well-being throughout the Games.