8 things you probably didn’t know about the ASEAN Para Games
One thing you must know: Team Singapore needs your support.
The 8th ASEAN Para Games opened yesterday in Singapore. In case you’re going “Huh? Got such thing as Para Games ah?” – here’s a brief explainer for everything:
1) This is only the 8th ASEAN Para Games, despite the SEA Games’ long history
The ASEAN Para Games was started after a special meeting of Paralympic Committees in ASEAN in 2000, at the Malaysian Paralympiad (a paralympic games for disabled athletes in Malaysia).
Before that, paralympic athletes competed in the Malaysian Paralympiad in invitationals as guests. Athletes also competed in the FESPIC (Far East and South Pacific
In comparison, this year’s SEA Games is in its 28th edition.
2) Para means parallel
Despite the common association with paraplegic athletes, the ASEAN Para Games are meant to run ‘in parallel’ with SEA Games, at the host cities they were held in. In 2009, Laos decided not to host the ASEAN Para Games, but to let Malaysia host it instead.
3) There are many disability classifications to include as many disabled athletes as possible
The main reason why there are so many is due to a 2003 attempt by the International Paralympic Committee to develop accurate, reliable, consistent and credible playing fields – basically, to make it fair.
There are fairly long rulebooks as to how classifications are defined, based on each type of disability, like intellectual impairment, blindness and functional mobility. As such, the list of events for sports like athletics can be very long. For example, this year’s ASEAN Para Games will offer 116 medals for athletics.
4) Despite the number of events, the number of sports are small.
There are only 15 sports in this year’s ASEAN Para Games, compared to the 36 of this year’s SEA Games. Even so, this year’s Para Games offers the most number of sports of any edition of the ASEAN Para Games.
It may seem logical, because there might be a lot of classifications and thus many events. Many team sports like cerebral palsy football often have athletes of differing degrees of impediment play together at the same time.
For example, there are some 14 classifications for swimming alone.
Several sports can be adapted for disabled athletes without many modifications – like boccia, which is a similar to bocce and petanque – but some are virtually impossible, and are thus off the list of sports in the ASEAN Para Games.
5) We have already spoiled market for other ASEAN Para Games. Because SG50
Like the SEA Games, the ASEAN Para Games has already ‘raised the benchmark’ and become ‘a term of reference’ for other ASEAN Para Games in future, according to ASEAN Para Sports Federation president Zainal Abu Zarin.
The Malaysian – who was integral in planning the inaugural ASEAN Para Games – told The Straits Times that the amount of community outreach initiatives, government support and planning set Singapore’s edition apart.
Efforts to improve the Para Games included a Symposium on Sport for Inclusion and the live broadcast of the opening ceremony in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Like the SEA Games, the competition will be available on YouTube.
6) Swimming looks like it could be a big sport for Singapore
Singapore has several medallists in swimming, such as Yip Pin Xiu, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Paralympics, and Theresa Goh, who won a silver and two bronze medals at last year’s Asian Para Games. We also have upcoming stalwarts like James Leo, who won a bronze in the last ASEAN Para Games. Swimming brought us 42 out of 76 ASEAN Para Golds in the last seven editions.
In fact, Singapore’s first gold medal came from swimming, courtesy of Theresa Goh.
Beyond our shores, there are also several swimmers to look out for – like Filipino swimmer Ernie Gawilan, who won three bronze medals in the Asian Para Games last year.
7) Thailand has the largest contingent in the ASEAN Para Games, and wants to be on top – again
Thailand – the traditional powerhouse – with 261 athletes in 14 out of the 15 sports, expects to do well in athletics, swimming, table tennis, boccia and wheelchair basketball. The Thais have table tennis Paralympic champions Rungroj Thainiyom and boccia champion Pattaya Tadtong in their midst – but they are facing competition from the Indonesians, who topped the last ASEAN Para Games medal tally.
Malaysia is the next strong powerhouse, coming third in the last ASEAN Para Games with 50 gold medals (compared to Singapore’s 7).
8) All events are absolutely FOC
There’s perhaps no better way to support Team Singapore and learn more about the Para Games than making the Games free for all.
Other than last night’s Opening Ceremony, all the sports events are free of charge.
That said, entry is on a first-come-first-serve basis.
All photos from ASEAN Para Games Facebook page.