Saturday, October 22, 2016


The 2016 Paralympics in Rio are still going on full throttle, and already some inspiring stories have taken place, tales of athletes who have achieved greatness and glory in sports for the differently abled, but also containing some sobering and even bittersweet tinge to their victories.

Following are selections of these heartwarming and heartbreaking tales of triumph and tragedy for the brave Paralympians in Rio, as reported in BBC.

On the Paralympic swimming events, Yip Pin Xiu of Singapore became a bona fide double gold Paralympian when she beat her own world record for the 200m women’s backstroke to win gold Saturday September 10. She won gold for the first time back in Beijing 2008. She would post a picture on Instagram of herself being emotional with fellow Singapore Paralympian Theresa Goh, whose muscular dystrophy has given her disproportionately small legs yet did not stop her from competing in the Paralympics since Athens 2004, yet it was only on that same Saturday that she medaled at last after coming in third on the 100m women’s breaststroke, with her Bronze being Singapore’s second overall medal for these games.

The photo Yip posted would ignite anew calls within her country to have differently abled athletes like her and Goh receive the same recognition and pay that regular Olympians get when they come home with medals. These crusaders point at the perks and benefits that able bodied Joseph Schooling got when he beat his idol Michael Phelps to win Singapore’s first Olympic gold in Rio just the month before: a hero’s welcome, lifetime free flights on AirAsia, advertising deals, and a S$1 million prize. Then they note the disparity in Yip’s projected prize of only S$160,000 reward, and that’s before taxes. While Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong has officially praised Yip’s efforts, more people in the island state are calling for him and other benefactors to do more. Singapore Airlines supposedly has plans for her, but merely asked the curious to stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Paralympian Marieke Vervoort of Belgium came in second place at the women’s 400m wheelchair to win a silver medal, which she acknowledges to be her last at the Paralympic Games.

The reason is that her degenerative muscle disease, for which there is no cure, has deteriorated her physical performance to the point that she may not live to see, much less compete in, the Games for 2020.

Her condition is so bad in fact, that as early as 2008 she has signed documents allowing her physicians to euthanize her when she is no longer functional, a choice that is legal in her native Belgium as well as Luxembourg and the Netherlands. While happy with her win, she’s also sad to be leaving behind a sport she can no longer enjoy. But although Vervoort has signed her means of death, she still means to live her life as long and as best she can.

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