Paralympics: Outstanding athletes and friends

Swimmer Yip Pin Xiu (left) and equestrian rider Laurentia Tan, Singapore's Paralympic medallists, with their Outstanding Athlete Awards

They met for the first time at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, where they both earned glory for Singapore.

Over the years, para-athletes Yip Pin Xiu and Laurentia Tan have kept in contact via e-mail and Facebook, even though they are based in different countries - Yip (above, left), 23, is in Singapore while Tan (above, right), 34, lives in London.

Last night, both were honoured with the Outstanding Athlete Award at the Singapore Disability Sports Council's (SDSC) 40th anniversary charity dinner and sports awards night at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

The duo, along with other winners like para-swimmer Theresa Goh, hung out together before the night started and met with President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

Said Tan, a para-equestrian rider: "When I first met her (Pin Xiu) in Beijing, she was just a shy teenager, and I never thought I'd win a medal at the Paralympics. "So I am honoured and speechless at the honour tonight."

Tan, who was born with cerebral palsy and is deaf, won Singapore's first Paralympic medal, a bronze, at the 2008 Games.

Yip - who has muscular dystrophy - then soaked in the plaudits when she made history by winning Singapore's first Paralympic gold, storming to first place in the women's 50m backstroke S3.

In their respective speeches last night, both paid tribute to the SDSC for reaching out and making sure that para-athletes can excel at the highest levels.

The two elite athletes vowed to be part of the 2015 ASEAN Para Games, which will be held in Singapore in December next year, regardless of whether they are competing or not. Said Yip: "I just realised that I have been swimming competitively for a decade and I want to go on for another decade.

"I will definitely compete at the Para Games next year; it is quite a different feeling to have your fellow countrymen in the stands cheering for you." Tan added: "I don't know if equestrian will be offered next year, but I will definitely be back to help out.

"Hopefully I can help reach out to both able-bodied and disabled people to create more awareness for disability sports.

"And I'll definitely be back to cheer on Pin Xiu and the rest of the Singaporeans!"

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