Tribute to Paralympians: Rallying A Nation – Speech by Sylvia Lim

(Delivered in Parliament on 7 November 2016)

The Workers’ Party joins the Minister and all Members in congratulating our Paralympians on their inspiring achievements at Rio.  Indeed, there is much for Singaporeans to celebrate this year in international sporting competition, with Team Singapore’s successes at the most prestigious international competitions – the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Truth be told, most of us don’t know much about the Paralympic Games.  We muddle over how para-athletes are classified by disability, and find it puzzling that there are so many similar events.  Indeed, it is impossible for us able-bodied persons to get into the mind of a disabled person, let alone one who dares to put himself or herself out there, in the arena, in front of the whole world.     From the para-athletes’ perspective, Ms Yip Pin Xiu was most generous when she said: “We put in the same amount of effort to get to where we are and it’s not easier being in para-sports.”  Despite what life has dealt them, para-athletes are experts at turning adversity into strength.  As Ms Theresa Goh once said: I [wouldn’t] be swimming or where I am today if I weren’t disabled.”

There are many inspiring stories all over the world about how individuals overcame disability through sport.  A few days ago, I heard over the radio about a Canadian teenager named Trent Seymour, a very promising softball pitcher and catcher, who was paralysed in a hunting accident two years ago at age 16.   After weeks in ICU and months of rehabilitation, he decided that he wanted to return to the game he loved, even though he was now a paraplegic.  He signed up for umpire training and passed the required tests and soon, he was the first ever Umpire on Wheels.  The sight of him on softball pitches surprised and inspired many fans worldwide.

During the recent Paralympic Games, friends of mine who had children with disabilities were abuzz.  Their children were glued to their TV sets every day and night, rooting for our Paralympic athletes.  Some of these parents had introduced sports to their children as therapy.  Now, their children were seeing before their very own eyes that, through sporting competition, they too could, one day, don the national colours and bring glory to Singapore.

It goes without saying that cultivating our para-athletes to sporting excellence takes a whole village and the government as well.  As a country with one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, we would be poor if our disabled citizens were not able to have big dreams or realize their maximum potential.

Our para-athletes have taken Singapore a giant leap forward in our journey towards a truly inclusive society.  We thank all those who have loved and supported them through their unique journeys.  We must continue to press on to make Singapore a home where no one is left behind.