Tales of inspiration at Asia's largest ever Para Games
SINGAPORE (UPDATED) - Singapore brought down the curtain on Southeast Asia's biggest ever para sports event on Wednesday after a week of competition celebrating the achievements and potential of people with disabilities.
Football superstar David Beckham was among the spectators, declaring he was inspired by the 1,200 athletes from 10 countries that competed in 15 sports at the ASEAN Para Games.
Singapore pulled out all the stops, housing the athletes at a luxury hotel in the city centre and hosting the competition at the new, $1 billion Sports Hub complex.
Singapore's Jason Chee, 31, provided one of the many tales of inspiration after he overcame a horrific naval accident to win gold in the men's team table tennis.
Chee's success comes just 3 years after he lost both legs, his left arm and three fingers on his right hand after being caught between a berthing rope and motorized winch on a navy vessel.
Earlier Thai teenager Anchaya Ketkeaw, who after being born with a deformed right hand was bullied in school and told she would amount to nothing, won seven gold medals.
"In Thailand, people tend to look down on the disabled. But my mother always told me not to be ashamed of my disability," the Straits Times quoted her as saying.
Singaporean swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, 23, broke the world record in the women's 50m backstroke, clocking 1min 1.61sec to lower the mark set by China's Feng Yazhu at the London Paralympics.
Beckham watched Singapore play Thailand at football on Sunday and posted a video on his Instagram with the caption: "The level of skill in this game is incredible."
"It is inspiring to see athletes pursue their passion with such great desire," added the former England captain.
'Nothing is impossible'
The UN's regional development arm ESCAP said on its website that one in 6 people in the Asia-Pacific region - about 650 million people - has some form of disability and tended to be "unseen, unheard and uncounted".
The athletes travelled to the Games venue on Singapore's metro train system to allow them to interact with the public and raise their visibility.
Wheelchair-bound hospital administrator Leslie Chia, 48, a spectator, was among those who said the event had shone a light on people with disabilities.
"It has created a lot of awareness. Awareness is one thing, I think it's very inspiring. It has really shown people that nothing is impossible," she told AFP.
Singapore chief of mission Raja Singh said the games exceeded his expectations.
"Next is to encourage people with disability to come and play the sport and there were a lot of people with disability who came to watch the game. That is very encouraging," he said.
Zainal Abu Zarin, president of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation, described the Singapore edition as the "best games ever in the 15-year history of our games".
The games closed late Wednesday, with the torch extinguished. Malaysia will host the games in 2017.
About 400 performers put on a spectacular musical show at the iconic Marina Bay Sands casino complex for the closing ceremonies.
Thailand topped the medals table with 95 golds, ahead of Indonesia (81) and Malaysia (52).
The ASEAN Para Games is now in its eighth edition after starting in 2001 in Malaysia, when about 400 athletes took part. – Rappler.com