Paralympic is less about the sport but the individual, beating the odds the competitor faces in life

Just this Thursday, Godfrey Robert from The New Paper argues in his article, “Honour Yip, but don’t put her in the same league as Schooling”  that people should not compare para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu’s achievement with Olympic swimmer Joseph Schooling as they are of different league and ask for equal amount of reward for the para-swimmer with two gold medals in the Rio Paralympics 2016.

He wrote in his article, “And you cannot put Yip’s effort – however colossal it has been considering her handicap, tough training regimen and rigours of the battle of mind over matter – in the same league as Schooling’s mammoth achievement.

For Yip swam in a classification race based on the disabilities (100m backstroke S2) with direct entry into the final, which obviously meant that there was a smaller field as compared to Schooling’s event.

The 24-year-old was one of six competitors as compared to Schooling’s rivalry with 42 other swimmers, which called for heats, semi-finals and final. So the scale of competition is vastly different. The interest in the events grossly varied.”

Robert’s view is in agreement with Member of Parliament, Teo Ser Luck’s parliamentary speech in 2008, where he said in response to the question of why is there a lack of parity on the rewards to the Paralympians.

Mr Teo had said, “One of the things that we have to look at is that the Olympics competition level is actually quite different.  The Olympics competition is a free world competition.  Paralympians can join Olympics.  Olympians cannot join Paralympics.  That is one thing you look at – the level of competition.

Secondly, the base of competition within the Olympics is a lot broader and the base of competition for Paralympics is smaller and is segmentised because Paralympics is based on the disabilities which are classified differently.  So that is a different scale of competition.”

A former journalist, Claire Leow, commented on her Facebook post in response to Godfrey’s article,

“I disagree. In the end, we cannot measure (or reward) human endeavour by money alone but withholding it sends a wrong message to society too. After all, as a taxpayer, I pledge my share of it to all society and to that end, in principle, I want Yip Pin Xiu and other disabled athletes to get the same rewards.

Yes, she competed in a smaller field, in the reporter’s eyes. But that doesn’t diminish her efforts. Even the reporter admitted her feat was “superhuman”. I am glad it was a smaller field I am glad because each of those six competitors had a disability no one wishes on them. But it is also a bigger field – the six only represented the many others with more severe disabilities that could not possibly have gotten them into competition. They are bedridden, in hospices and hospitals, watching the TV and marvelling at Yip’s Herculean efforts. They are being inspired outside of our scrutiny. It is them we need to uphold in any argument of equality.

In the Paralympic Games, the competition isn’t about the number of competitors one is up against it really is about beating the odds the competitor faces in his/her own life. It is less about the sport but the individual. Ask Theresa Goh, who considered other sports such as kayaking and weight-lifting before settling on swimming to test her body and her will. Another champion, no matter the colour of the medal she won.

I watched Yip swim and I teared when the underwater camera captured the sheer will of all the competitors hauling their disabled bodies through the resistance of the water, and had my hand over my mouth as they prevailed. Such incredible courage.

I watched her at the medal ceremony, and her disability was on full display. Underwater, she was a champion. On dry land, her atrophied right arm and legs betrayed the sacrifices she had made to be a champion our champion, a champion for all those she represented. And lets not sweep this under the carpet, a treasure of memory for her in the years to come as her body will finally give way to muscular dystrophy.

So, I want her not just to be honoured, but celebrated, upheld as a role model for all abled and disabled and yes, I want her to get S$1 million for her medals so she can pay for all her medical bills to come.

She won two gold medals. Whatever the magnificence of Joseph Schooling’s feat, Yip’s is no less astonishing.”

Yin has muscular dystrophy and competes in the S3 category for the physically impaired. Jesse, a father of a boy with muscular dystrophy wrote in response to Clarie’s Facebook status:

“As the father of a son with muscular dystrophy just like Pin Xiu, let me state the following facts:

1. Every one of these born with MD are living a slow Death sentence. The extreme forms have a life expectancy in Singapore of early 30s.
2. Muscular exertion can and WILL destroy her muscle cells, worsening her disability
3. Every swim she undertakes hastens the day that she will be forced to retire. When the heart and lung muscles are affected, it will end life prematurely.
4. The use of these failing muscles even in daily life is painful
5. She swims for others with MD as the majority will never be able to get off their wheelchairs because of the severity of their condition
6. She has dropped her other events over time and is only doing backstroke now because her condition is getting worse.

My son loves swimming, but that’s because all the dead tissue makes him naturally buoyant. But he cannot swim, he can only breathe in air and dive. It benefits him because of the cardio workout which strengthens those muscles and it allows flexing of the joints and avoid permanent stiffness.

But training is out of the question as it hastens muscle death. I don’t know of many athletes who willingly train in a manner that encourages potential permanent damage to themselves. In that I believe she’s gone far beyond what other athletes have done.

I am proud of her achievements but as a DMD parent, I fear for what may happen to her body as a result of all this.”

Jesse also said that he had messaged Yip that she swims on behalf of all DMD boys and girls who could never do that, aside from floating and diving in the pool.

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