Games support paramount

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday urged Singaporeans to replicate the passionate atmosphere witnessed at June's SEA Games for December's ASEAN Para Games (APG).

The support for local athletes four months ago, when the hosts captured a record 84 golds, was overwhelming and hopefully more of the same will be seen at the Dec 3-9 APG, he said.

"How will Team Singapore as the audience perform? Will we be there cheering our hearts out the way we did in June during the SEA Games? We do hope Singaporeans will come forward in as large numbers as possible," said Mr Tan, after visiting the athletics team at Kallang.

He also met members of the table tennis and goalball squads.

"They are very much like every other able-bodied athlete, putting in a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work (which) we do not see," he added.

"In some ways, you could say they face even more challenges than able-bodied athletes but the determination and drive they have are something we can all emulate and learn from."

The APG, to be held in Singapore for the first time, at a cost of $75 million, will see 3,000 athletes and officials from 11 participating countries compete across 15 sports.

It will be the biggest-ever APG, which began in 2001 with just 235 athletes and only two sports on the calendar.

The Republic will be represented by 160 athletes - its largest ever contingent, with more than 60 per cent of them debutants - as it aims to better the country's best showing of 16 golds, 10 silvers and 11 bronzes at the inaugural edition in Kuala Lumpur.

With so many debutants and the expectation to perform on home soil especially high, nerves must be expected, noted Singapore chef de mission Raja Singh. "But it's up to the athletes to use this positive energy to their advantage and push themselves harder," he said.

Para sprinter Lieu Teck Hua, 35, will compete in the 100m and 200m (T42) at the National Stadium and is looking forward to the experience.

He said: "There is a certain pressure of fearing embarrassment and not performing well in front of the home crowd but it's positive pressure.

"It's also good because my friends and family can come and see me competing."

Beyond medals, it is this coming together as one people that is the greater reward Mr Tan hopes will continue after the APG.

"It's really a continuing journey in terms of building a more inclusive Singapore... The legacy would be how it inspires all of us to remember to look out for our fellow Singaporeans, to remember to appreciate all Singaporeans of all abilities and to include them in our daily lives."

Additional reporting by Vanessa Kang

This article was first published on October 21, 2015.
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