Warm-up events for para games

The Asean Para Games will begin only on Dec 3 but organisers have already begun to drum up interest in the event.

Yesterday, the build-up began with the staging of a friendly para table-tennis tournament at Marina Square, which saw over 20 Paralympic paddlers from Asia sparring among themselves as well as with the public to raise awareness of the sport.

Held today as well, members of the public can interact and play with the various para paddlers and learn how the athletes perform despite having disabilities.

The occasion is the first of many community events that will take place across the country over the next few months in a bid to raise awareness and educate the public about para sports.

The Games are into their eighth edition but it will be the first time that Singapore is staging the biennial event.

"Not many people understand or are comfortable with seeing para athletes play," Kerk Kim Por, the deputy chairman of the Singapore Asean Para Games Olympic Committee (Sapgoc), said. "So we bring the sport to them."

This year's Games will feature 15 sports, the most-ever, and Team Singapore are also busy gearing up for the meet, a process which also includes recruiting athletes.

For instance, two sports will be introduced for the first time - goal ball and football (five-a-side). Both are for the visually impaired.

Sapgoc has been busy in recent months looking for players to represent Singapore. Kerk said: "We went out to recruit players who had never played this before. This is a great achievement for a person with a disability - to have a desire to play and be recognised."

While the community events promote the Games' sporting aspect, Kerk stressed they also aim to raise awareness of how the disabled can live normal lives.

"We want to let the public know that they do not need to feel uncomfortable when dealing with someone with a disability as they are independent," he explained.

Exemplifying that view was YouTube sensation and two-time Para African silver medallist Ibrahim Hamato who was in action yesterday. After losing both his arms to a car accident at the age of 10, he plays table tennis by holding the bat in his mouth.

The Egyptian, 42, said: "Sport should not just be for able-bodied athletes but for everyone to enjoy and participate in."

Singapore captain Dr William Tan said: "This (table tennis) event is eye-opening for the public, (showing them) that we can play. This is also a testing ground in our preparation for the Games."


This article was first published on July 05, 2015.
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