Swimmer Yip Pin Xiu retained her 100m backstroke (S2) title at the Tokyo Paralympics on Wednesday (Aug 25) after she placed first in the final at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.
She took the gold medal in 2min 16.61sec, ahead of Japan’s Miyuki Yamada (2:26.18) and Mexico’s Fabiola Ramirez (2:36.54).
She said: “There’s a lot of emotions right now because it’s really been a rough year for not only myself but everyone. To be here again at the end of it, it’s truly an amazing feeling.
“And to be able to be on the podium once more has been exceptional. I think I haven’t really digested a lot of things but maybe if you speak to me after the medal ceremony. You see me weeping and crying. Yeah, but it’s been phenomenal.”
She said she handled her nerves well and added: “I think the only difference was knowing that I haven’t raced in so long. But it’s the same kind of nerves, knowing that I’ve done everything I can to be here today, and really just doing my very best at the race.
“It was strange. Normally during the Paralympics it’s roaring. The stadium is roaring but I think for me I was just very focused on the race so it didn’t completely strike me that there was no one in the stands.”
And the tears did indeed come during the medal ceremony, the first beat of the Majulah Singapura bringing a welling up of emotions; Yip sobbing as the Singapore flag rose above Japan’s and Mexico’s.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led the lengthy list of those who congratulated her, writing on Facebook: “Pin Xiu, Singapore is proud of you, and you inspire all of us!”
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong also put up a social media post, writing: “She is, quite simply, legendary…
“PX is showing us what it means to be resilient amid difficult times. Congrats Pin Xiu! We’re all incredibly proud of you.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the 29-year-old had topped the heats in 2:14.46 to set a new season best.
At the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Yip had won the event in a world record of 2:07.09.
Yip’s gold is Singapore’s first medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, which opened on Tuesday and will end on Sept 5.
Fellow swimmer Sophie Soon and tandem cyclists Steve Tee and Ang Kee Meng, all Paralympic debutantes, were also in action on Wednesday.
Soon clocked 1:28.61 in the 100m butterfly (S13) heats to come in last of 18 swimmers, while Tee and Ang achieved a personal best of 4:40.453sec in the men’s B 4,000m individual pursuit to finish ninth of 14 pairs.
Yip’s next event will be the 50m backstroke (S2) on Sept 2, in which she also holds the world record.
She told the Olympic Information Service: “It’s good that I also have some time to rest and recover and be ready. I hope I get to sleep in tomorrow.
“Then it’s really back to the grind again training and just making sure I’m still eating right, sleeping well until I finish my races.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times.