Her World Young Woman Achiever 2008: Yip Pin Xiu, Swimmer, One Gold Medal And One Silver Medal At The 2008 Beijing Paralympics

This swimmer overcame insurmountable odds to make Singapore sports history at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
When Yip Pin Xiu was seven, she gave up at the 600m mark during her first attempt at getting her 1,500m Distance Swimming Award. “Everyone was swimming past me, and I just couldn’t keep up,” she recalls. It was the first time she was competing with able-bodied kids, and she was forced to confront her physical disabilities. Now 17, Pin Xiu was diagnosed with hereditary sensory motor neuropathy, which causes nerve functions and muscles to progressively deteriorate. The incident made Pin Xiu focus on doing her personal best instead of competing with others. A year later, she completed the swim without a hitch.
The lesson has since put Pin Xiu in good stead. She made history when she won the Republic’s first Olympic-level gold medal in the women’s 50m backstroke at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. With a time of 58.75s, she beat her nearest opponent by more than seven seconds and seven metres. She also won a silver in the 50m freestyle and set two world records at the heats of both events.
Pin Xiu is distracted by the SMSes she receives on her phone when you talk to her, and loves going shopping. But that’s where her similarities with other teenagers end. She has been wheelchair-bound since age 11, the vision in her left eye is blurring, and she is losing control of motor skills in her wrist and grip. It’s no wonder then that she finds reprieve in the water. Once she slips from her wheelchair and into the water, she is in her element.
Pin Xiu joined her brothers for swimming lessons when she was five and started swimming competitively when she was 12, after a volunteer at the Singapore Disability Sports Council noticed how she could keep up in the water with the able-bodied kids. Her coach of five years, ex-Olympian Ang Peng Siong, says: “Pin Xiu genuinely loves the water and picks up techniques quickly. During a competition, she gives her all and focuses on what needs to be done.”