14 December 17 The Straits Times by LESTER WONG
Singapore's para-athletes are returning home with yet another record medal haul, this time from the Asian Youth Para Games (AYPG) in Dubai, which ended yesterday.
The four golds, five silvers and six bronzes obtained in the third edition of the quadrennial event - as of press time last night with the athletics session still ongoing - tops the Republic's previous best showing (2-1-1) at the inaugural AYPG in Tokyo in 2009.
Team Singapore had previously won 50 medals at September's Asean Para Games (APG) in Kuala Lumpur, the biggest haul from an overseas APG.
"We want to ensure long-term continuity for high performance so it bodes well for the future to have our young athletes do well at the Asian level," said Kevin Wong, who heads both the Singapore National Paralympic Council and Singapore Disability Sports Council.
"One of the things we've tried to do since I came on board (in 2016) is create greater breadth and depth in the talent pool ahead of the 2020 Paralympics and beyond."
The size of the 28-strong contingent, the largest Singapore has sent to the AYPG, also meant that it was easy for a sense of camaraderie to develop.
Said Games chef de mission and three-time Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu: "It's been great this time with a big team and I've really enjoyed getting to know each and everyone and providing them with some encouragement.
"Winning a medal is nice, but I've also told them that it's more important to be committed to training and then just do their best when competing."
Among Singapore's standout performers were para-swimmer Wong Zhi Wei, who is partially blind, and sprinter Lionel Toh, who has cerebral palsy.
Zhi Wei, 15, won gold in the men's 100m freestyle (S11-13) and silver in the 100m breaststroke (S11-13) events yesterday. His haul of three golds and two silvers in the pool makes him the country's most bemedalled athlete in the United Arab Emirates.
Lionel overcame a niggling ankle injury to record his first international win with victory in the 100m T37 (U-20) on Monday (early Tuesday Singapore time) in 14.2 seconds. The 18-year-old said: "I couldn't quite believe it at first and the emotions only started to sink in after I watched the replay to confirm I won.
"I'm looking forward to next year's Asian Para Games but my immediate goal now is just to rest and recover from my injury."
The contingent returns to Singapore in three waves from today to Saturday.