The swanky Ferraris that carried Singapore's Paralympians during their celebratory parade yesterday were as much of an attraction as their passengers.
Flag-waving spectators cheered and took photographs of the red Prancing Horses, which formed an impressive convoy as they roared along Singapore's main roads.
Yet, the 11 Ferrari drivers/owners behind the steering wheels were happy to remain in the background, and it took a lot of persuasion before they were willing to be interviewed, as they did not want to take the limelight away from the Paralympians.
They are from the Ferrari Owners' Club but had stepped forward to volunteer their cars and services without any prompting by the club.
Said lawyer Timothy Tan, 54, who ferried chef de mission Ho Cheng Kwee: "I feel that the para-athletes are often overshadowed by their able-bodied counterparts.
"We wanted to give them a grand parade, something memorable, in our own small way."
Managing director Elaine Lim-Chan, 45, who ferried double gold medallist para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, added: "When Timothy approached me, I said 'yes' straight away, I think none of us will reject it. We really come together as one Team Singapore."
Not all Paralympians sat in a Ferrari. Boccia players Nurulasyiqah Taha and Toh Sze Ning travelled in London cabs because the more spacious vehicles were easier for the wheelchair-bound athletes to get in and out of.
At the parade, the owners also gave personalised Ferrari caps to each of the 13 Paralympians. These additions gave the parade a warm touch, shaped by careful considerations for the needs of the para-athletes.
Planning for the homecoming began even before the para-athletes had left for Brazil, said Singapore National Paralympic Council chairman Teo-Koh Sock Miang.
She said: "We have done celebratory parades before on an open-top bus, but the para-athletes would have found it challenging to go up the steps because some of them are on wheelchairs.
"We always consider the needs of the athletes and we want them to feel comfortable."
Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin added: "(We had) many helping hands... the London cabs, the Ferrari drivers to step forward with their vehicles, and we were pleased with the care and patience they took to drive."
Throughout the parade, all of the para-athletes, medallists or not, shared the same stage at the pit stops as they were lauded for their performance at Rio.
Dr Teo said: "I think we've come very far (in growing disability sports).
"This parade is a wonderful reinforcement of that."
Additional reporting by Chua Siang Yee and Nicole Chia
This article was first published on September 25, 2016.
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