With Singapore playing host to the ASEAN Para Games for the first time in December, 2015 might well be a watershed year for disability sports in the country.
"I believe that this year is going to be the catalyst for so many things, especially disability sports," said Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) chairman, Associate Professor Dr Teo-Koh Sock Miang.
"We have a lot of things lined up for our para athletes, things that will benefit them greatly from a personal and professional standpoint."
At the Athletes' Achievement Award Reception yesterday, when the Republic's medallists at the 2014 Incheon Para Games were given monetary awards totalling $145,000 for their good performances, two new initiatives were introduced for the nation's para athletes.
The first is the athletes' committee helmed by Dr Teo-Koh, which is dedicated towards the welfare of para athletes.
The second initiative - the inter-agency committee - is pledged towards building a lasting legacy for disability sports beyond the Para Games.
It is chaired by Minister of State Mr Sam Tan.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Mr Lawrence Wong, guest-of-honour at the reception, said: "Our work does not end with the ASEAN Para Games.
"One of our long-term goals is for sports to be without boundaries, to be inclusive, and to provide opportunities for Singaporeans of all abilities to participate.
"These committees will see how we can break down barriers and expand opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in sports."
Dr Teo-Koh echoed Mr Wong's sentiments, saying: "We want to make sure that we hear the voices of the athletes. We want the athletes to have an avenue to air their views, so that we can work even more closely with them.
"For example, transportation can be a problem for many para athletes. So, these committees give them a formal channel to discuss with us.
"And sometimes, they are the best people to ask, because they know their situation best."
Sailor Jovin Tan, who along with Yap Qian Yin won gold in the Hansa 303 double-handed keelboat event in Incheon, is looking forward to a rosier future for disability sports.
"I've always treated sailing as purely a platform for me to push my own limits," he said.
"Hopefully, from now onwards, disability sports will get more backing and more coverage, and more attention will be paid to us para athletes.
"With the region's finest set to compete in our own backyard, there will be a lot of pressure, but it will definitely feel surreal."
This article was first published on Jan 30, 2015.
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