ASEAN Para Games: A Games like no other

ASEAN Para Games: A Games like no other
Singapore Asean Para Games Organising Committee chairman Lim Teck Yin
PHOTO: The Straits Times

There are several factors that will determine if the ASEAN Para Games (APG) will be deemed a success: Organisational excellence, bums on seats, and athlete and fan experiences.

The week-long Games will kick off here on Thursday with the opening ceremony at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin believes the event is set to make a huge impact on the Republic.

For athletes, a key requirement for success is mastery of the body, pushing the limits of human potential to go faster and higher, and be stronger.

But Lim (above), who is also the chairman of the Singapore ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee (Sapgoc) asserts that the strength of the human spirit will also be on prominent display during the Games.

OPPORTUNITY

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Lim said: "One key aspect of our vision for the Games is to give more people the opportunity to come out not because of heartwarming stories (of the athletes), but because they are truly inspiring, and give people perspectives on their own lives.

"People are already taking note of our athletes and there have been several enquiries about the Para Games. Awareness has gotten better, and that is already a measure of success," he added.

"The human spirit comes out in sports in general, but the money in professional sports sometimes clouds that. It shines very clearly in para sports."

From wheelchair users to vision-impaired athletes, each tells a story of struggle, of acceptance, of overcoming the odds - and living life to the fullest.

"These Games can impact the heart of the country, it can help a country to remember its soul," said Lim.

The former Singapore water-polo star acknowledged that there are three main areas that will determine if the ASEAN Para Games will be deemed successful: How well it is organised, if people come out in support of the athletes, and if more stories of the Games appear in the media.

But he seemed to lean more on the intangibles.

He recognised the apprehension members of the public may have in their approach to para athletes, but asserts it is simply a question of familiarisation.

He recalled his experience playing table tennis with Jason Chee, a former navy serviceman turned wheelchair table tennis player, after he lost both legs and his left arm in a horrific shipboard accident.

HIGHER

Lim noticed how Chee, the superior player obviously, moved to a higher level in his training session after their sparring session.

"Watching him in training after (our session) it seemed like he adjusted to what he thought was my level of table tennis," said Lim.

"... but if I was playing a match against him, I'd ask if I should sit. (But) this is sport and it's not only for people with disabilities, it's also a game, it should be fun.

"I've tried goalball, boccia and played table tennis in a wheelchair. It should be, and can be inclusive in the sense that people of different abilities can always play together.

"The key thing is that people should not feel uncomfortable or guilty when talking to our disabled athletes - it's really a similar struggle when speaking with someone who can't speak English well, it's just a matter of making adjustments."

Lim acknowledged that June's South-east Asia Games, deemed wildly successful in many people's eyes, could have an influence over how the ASEAN Para Games is eventually rated, and he insists it should be held to a different standard.

"It's like comparing a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert to a K-pop one - they cater to a completely different crowd. But the ASEAN Para Games needs to be successful," he conceded, admitting that just one week of competition means as an event on its own, it will not have time to grow on the public.

BUZZ

"We do hope that there will be enough buzz, and we hope to leverage on the impact of the SEA Games.

"The ASEAN Para Games is about what it means to play fair, what is ethical competition... about understanding and adjustment," said Lim.

"It's not just Singapore, every society needs to learn this."

Know your para-sports

ARCHERY

There are two events for archery at the 8th ASEAN Para Games - Recurve and compound open.

The sport is open to standing archers as well as those who compete in a wheelchair.

They are divided into three categories - the ARST (Archery Standing), ARW1 (Archery Wheelchair) and ARW2, according to the level of disability.

ATHLETICS

Para-athletics is open to all impairment groups.

A total of 12 events will be contested - 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m, 4x100m, javelin, discus, shot put, long jump and high jump.

Athletes compete according to six functional classifications, which are further divided according to activity limitation.

BADMINTON

Players who compete in wheelchairs fall under the sport class of "WH", and athletes who stand while competing, and use their lower limb or upper limb fall under the prefixes "SL" and "SU", respectively.

Each of the three categories is further split into two groups.

Badminton at these Games will be competed in six sport classes.

Singles matches for players in wheelchairs are limited to one half of the court due to limited reach, but doubles matches use the full court as with regular badminton.


This article was first published on Nov 28, 2015.
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