Singapore Para-Sailors Jovin Tan and Yap Qian Yin are competing as a pair for the first time at Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Jovin Tan, 30-year-old, was born with cerebral palsy, a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth.
He started training 15 years ago. In an interview with The Kent Ridge Common, Jovin said that he went on training at first only to avoid being at home only with his “hot-tempered” father who couldn’t accept his disability since his mother had to go to work on the weekends. He said that sailing on weekends meant that “at least half of a Sunday he would not have to stay at home and face his dad”.
However, he said, “Over time, I discovered I had an interest and that it was something that I could actually do. And I took part in one of the local races during the time and the result was not too bad. I managed to beat a few other seniors who came into the sailing program much earlier than I did. That was the first medal, or trophy that I’d won in my whole entire life. I just wanted to give it a shot and do my best. I did not even think about being a national sailor and representing Singapore for the Paralympics.”
Yap Qian Ying, 26-year-old, had leukemia eight years ago which caused her to suffer spinal inflammation. She had to use a wheelchair since then, and she was not in any sports when she was able-bodied.
Yap said, “Sailing gives me a sense of freedom when I am out at sea. However, it also comes with a high level of stress as I have to cramp my trainings with work, studies and gym. Despite that, I stayed on because of the loving sailing community and support from Singaporeans.”
The two are currently competing in the Two-Person Keelboat (SKUD18) sporting event, with Jovin as the helm. The competition will be based on the accumulation of points. There will be 11 races from 13 to 18 September (Singapore time).
Another 10 countries are participating in the race; Australia, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Netherland, Poland, and the United States of America.
In a series of questions by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), shares about what they are most looking forward to in the event.
MCCY: This is not your first time participating in the Paralympics. What makes this time different?
Jovin: All the Paralympics are different – the venue, and conditions are new! This time, I’ll also be having a new crew (Qian Yin), so it’s something I look forward to. We want to go there to enjoy the race and the experience, and also learn something from it.
Qian Yin: It’s my first time participating in the Paralympics, so it’s a dream come true for me. And quite unexpected too!
MCCY: What is your daily training schedule for the Paralympics like?
Jovin: For myself, training has never actually stopped even after all these years. I was previously training with Desiree Lim, who was part of my original crew. Now, I train intensively with Qian Yin 4 days a week in the waters, and 2 days in the gym.
Qian Yin: Initially, I was not used to the intensity. But as sailors, we are able to take things as they come!
MCCY: Do you have any superstitions or lucky rituals you do before a competition?
Jovin: I would usually try to keep myself calm, and if we have enough time, I like to listen to “Hall of Fame” by The Script and put it on repeat! I believe one day, my name will also be up there.
Qian Yin: Over the years, I’ve always just focused on doing my best! (laughs)
MCCY: Besides the competition proper, what else are you looking forward to at the Rio 2016 Games?
Jovin: It’s a trip for me to bring my junior (Qian Yin) to Rio and enjoy the Games, and also introduce new friends to her. The sailing community in the world is very small! They might be surprised to see that I have a new crew – our “secret weapon”!
Qian Yin: It’s a platform for me to make friends and learn from one another. For example, at the 2014 Incheon Games, I’ve learnt a lot from the athletes with disabilities. Some of them had disabilities more severe than mine but were still giving it their all, so that made me reflect and push myself to go further.