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.