Champions of the human spirit

The tears flowed. Some in joy, others in defeat. But they were not tears of despair.

The 8th Asean Para Games, which had its closing ceremony on Wednesday night, celebrated the triumph of the human spirit.

For a week, the athletes kept the audience enthralled by overcoming the odds.

The spectators marvelled at the sheer tenacity of it all.

Singaporean Yip Pin Xiu, who was born with muscular dystrophy, competed against swimmers three categories above her own in the women's 50m backstroke S5 final.

The 23-year-old was trailing her rivals for much of the lap. Then something almost miraculous happened.

Mustering all her strength for one final burst in the last five metres, she clawed her way forward to finish first, clinching the gold and breaking the world record.

Thai sprint queen Kewalin Wannaruemon, a crowd favourite at the National Stadium, similarly inspired those who witnessed her feats.

Born blind, she falls under the T11 category, which is the most severe class for the visually impaired.

She first won over the crowd with her Hello Kitty eyeshade. All runners must wear a pair to ensure fairness.

Then, she won their respect with her dazzling speed on the track.

With a guide by her side, the 21-year-old blazed her way to the 100m, 200m and 400m titles.

And then there were the touching moments.

To the referee who helped to tie the shoelaces of a player with cerebral palsy, the runner who helped a fellow competitor to her feet and the many volunteers who went out of their way to make the

athletes feel welcome, this is our tribute to you.

This article was first published on December 11, 2015.
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