Image: Seah Kwang Peng
SINGAPORE – The bulk of Singapore’s Paralympians including medal-winners Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh were greeted by about 200 cheering supporters as they arrived home on Wednesday (Sept 21) morning.
Among those present at Terminal 3 before dawn to welcome home the Paralympians from Rio were Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin, Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin, Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy and the para-athletes’ family members.
They were joined by long jumper Suhairi Suhaini, para-archer Nur Syahidah Alim and boccia player Toh Sze Ning, all of whom had returned to Singapore earlier.
The contingent's plane - Singapore Airlines flight SQ67 - was greeted with a water cannon salute on the tarmac upon its arrival at Changi Airport.
TOUCHDOWN: Aaaaand they're home! It's a splashing welcome for Yip Pin Xiu, Theresa Goh and the team of #OneTeamSG Paralympians who made Singapore so proud at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games! [Send them your greetings and well wishes thru the comments section!]
Posted by Changi Airport on Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Yip and her fellow Paralympians later emerged in the arrival hall to cheers and applause from fans, their supporters and family members.
“Overwhelmed,” was Yip’s reply on the warm reception the athletes received.
“Even now, it hasn’t really fully sunk in. I’m just happy to return home to celebrate with everybody.”
Goh, her close friend and fellow swimmer Goh, added: "Thank you for showing up so early in the morning, we're very glad to be home"
One of the first to arrive to catch a glimpse of the para-athletes was control officer Foo Wah Jong, who took leave from work for the day. The 50-year-old said: “People don’t really treat disability sports that seriously. But I think what they have accomplished is even more amazing than usual athletes. To reach the top for them in sports is more challenging for them.
“I don’t even think that I will come here usually but I want to be here to support them, encourage them because I admire their spirit. I woke up to watch Pin Xiu and I cried when she won.”
Manager Christine Chen, 46, made heart-shaped balloons to give to the para-athletes. She said: “It is a small token of thank you to them. When you see them work so hard and never give up, this is the spirit that we all should learn.”
Team Singapore won three medals in Rio, where Singapore sent a record 13-strong team, its largest Paralympic contingent so far.
Yip, 24, claimed two golds - in the 50m and 100m backstroke S2 - becoming the first Singaporean to win two titles at a single Paralympics. She also set two world records in the process.
Fellow swimmer Goh, 29, took the bronze in the 100m breaststroke SB4 - her first medal in four Paralympics.
Image: Seah Kwang Peng
For Yip's father, Mr Chee Khiong, a warm hug rather than any elaborate gesture would suffice when he sees his daughter.
He said: "Just congratulate her and hug her, because I've already seen her in Rio."
There will be a press conference with Yip and Goh later on Wednesday afternoon.
On Saturday morning (Sept 24), a celebratory parade to mark the achievements of the Paralympians will start at ActiveSG Sengkang Sports Centre at 57, Anchorvale Road.
The athletes will be driven in a convoy of cars, which will make a pit stop at the National Library along Victoria Street. The convoy will then make its way to VivoCity.
More photos and videos on our live blog here.
A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on September 21, 2016. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com.