Yip Pin Xiu
Yip (far right) with her Paralympic teammates at a celebration on 20 September 2008
|Born||10 January 1991|
Yip Pin Xiu (Chinese: 叶品秀; pinyin: Yè Pǐnxìu), born 10 January 1992) is a Singaporean backstroke swimmer. She has muscular dystrophy and competes in the S3 category for the physically impaired. Since 2005, she has won medals in international competitions such as the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games, Japan Paralympic Swimming Championships and International German Paralympic Swimming Championships. At the 2008 Summer Paralympics, she won a gold medal in the 50 metres backstroke and a silver medal in the 50 metres freestyle, setting world records in both events. Hence she was conferred a state medal, the Meritorious Service Medal. Her achievements contributed to public debate about the treatment and recognition of disabled athletes in Singapore.
Early years and personal life
Yip was born with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that slowly breaks down the muscles, and a nerve condition that affects eyesight. When she was five, she started swimming to improve her health and strengthen her muscles; nevertheless, by the age of eleven, she had lost her ability to walk and had to use a wheelchair. The youngest of three children in her family, she studied in Ai Tong Primary School and Bendemeer Secondary School, then graduated from Republic Polytechnic as back-up valedictorian and, as of 2012, is studying social science at Singapore Management University.
Yip started swimming competitively when she was twelve years old. After losing her ability to kick, Yip switched from the front crawl to the backstroke and was reclassified from the S5 to the S3 category (lower numbers indicate more severe disabilities). Her coach is former Singaporean Olympic swimmer Ang Peng Siong, while fellow Paralympic swimmer Theresa Goh is her close friend and role model. Besides competitive swimming, Yip has participated in events to raise awareness of disabled sports, such as the Interschool Swimming Meets and Montfort Secondary School Track and Field Meet 2007.
After successes in national championships, Yip participated in the Asia Paralympics Swimming Championship 2005, winning two gold medals. Her first international competition was the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games 2005, where she won two gold medals and a bronze. She then received four gold medals at the DSE Long Course Swimming Championships in 2006. In 2007, she won three gold medals at the Japan Paralympic Swimming Championships and four gold medals at the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games.
At the 4th ASEAN ParaGames, Yip finished first in the women's 150 metres individual medley, clocking 4 minutes 56.34 seconds. She set a world record time of 1 minute 00.80 seconds in the 50 metres backstroke at the US Paralympic swimming trials. The 22nd International German Paralympic Swimming Championships saw her set a world record of 2 minutes 10.09 seconds in the 100 metres backstroke heats; in the finals, she was awarded the gold medal with a time of 2 minutes 08.09 seconds, bettering her own world record.
Yip started her 2008 Summer Paralympic Games campaign by breaking another world record, clocking 57.04 seconds in the women's 50 metres freestyle heats. However, she was narrowly beaten by Mexican swimmer Patricia Valle in the finals, clinching a silver medal with a time of 57.43 seconds. In the women's 50 metres backstroke heats, she posted a time of 57.92 seconds, taking two seconds off her own world record. She then swam the women's 50 metres backstroke finals in a time of 58.75 seconds to win the gold medal. After she returned to Singapore, the president conferred Yip a state medal, the Meritorious Service Medal.
The success of Yip and Laurentia Tan, who won two bronze medals in equestrian events, sparked public debate about the treatment and recognition of disabled athletes in Singapore. Letters to The Straits Times criticised the poor coverage of the Paralympics. Many Singaporeans also commented about the disparity of the cash awards handed out by the government: S$1,000,000 for an Olympic gold and S$100,000 for a Paralympic gold. When the issues were raised in Parliament, MCYS parliamentary secretary Teo Ser Luck promised to study plans to give disabled athletes greater support and to include them in sporting programmes such as Project 0812, a training programme for top Singaporean sportspeople. Two months later, the cash rewards for Paralympic medals were doubled and funding for the Singapore National Paralympic Council was increased.
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