20230603_ OPENING_CEREMONY_fh_009Team Singapore will be represented by 25 para-athletes competing in six sports at the 12th Asean Para Games, declared open at the Morodok Techo National Stadium on June 3. Photo: SportSG/Flona Hakim

By May Chen

Just over a fortnight after their able-bodied counterparts made waves in Cambodia, the spotlight now shines on the region’s best para-athletes.

The 12th Asean Para Games (APG) began on Saturday night (June 3) at the Morodok Techo National Stadium, in an opening ceremony that was intimate but no less spectacular than the fanfare a month ago. 

Even before the stars of the show – the athletes – marched in during the parade of contingents, there were already fireworks to mark the grandeur of the occasion. 

Team Singapore was represented by 29 athletes and officials, led by flagbearer Toh Sze Ning, competing at her fifth APG and chef de mission Erynne Lim. The boccia player is a double medallist from the last Games in Solo, including a gold in the mixed pair BC3.

20230603_ OPENING_CEREMONY_fh_005Boccia player Toh Sze Ning, at what is now her fifth APG, led the contingent out at the Morodok Techo National Stadium as flagbearer. Photo: SportSG/Flona Hakim

She said: “I feel very honoured to be the flagbearer for this APG, and I am excited to lead the contingent. My match starts tomorrow, I will do my best and do Singapore proud.”

This edition of the APG will feature 13 sports, with a 14th – esports – on the slate as a demonstration sport. Singapore’s 25-strong contingent are pencilled in for six sports: para-athletics, para-badminton, boccia, para-powerlifting, para-swimming and para-table tennis.

Apart from Toh, the contingent has several seasoned campaigners like fellow Paralympians Toh Wei Soong (para-swimming), Sophie Soon (para-swimming), Nur Aini Mohamad Yasli (para-powerlifting), and Muhammad Diroy Noordin (para-athletics). 

It also includes two debutants: Rodrick Li (para-table tennis) and Xavier Lim (para-badminton). 

20230603_ OPENING_CEREMONY_fh_007Singapore's team at the APG in Cambodia includes two debutants. Photo: SportSG/Flona Hakim

Said Li: “I am excited to soak in the atmosphere of the Games, to meet and make friends, and to witness and experience the competitiveness of it. 

“However, at the same time, I am nervous about competing against counterparts from other countries who are unbelievably strong and much more experienced than I am, but I will put up a tough fight against them.”

Indeed, the opening ceremony in Phnom Penh went some way in demonstrating the APG was just as momentous an event and meant no less to the first-time hosts. 

Just days earlier, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gave assurance the show would be comparable to the SEA Games. It was no empty promise, as he declared the 12th edition of the APG officially open and encouraged participants to succeed.

20230603_ OPENING_CEREMONY_fh_025The Asean Para Games opening ceremony was no less spectacular than that of the SEA Games last month. Photo: SportSG/Flona Hakim

In a 40-minute spectacle, performers put up a dazzling display in a showcase filled with sounds and sights titled “Khmer Heart”. 

There was the beating of victory drums, reminiscent of Khmer empire from centuries ago, a band made up of people with disabilities, and there were also uplifting dances and performances that celebrated Cambodia’s varied talent, strength and history. 

The night ended with the traditional lighting of the APG flame as fireworks lit the sky. Cambodia’s wheelchair basketballer An Sinet, who won one gold and one silver at the last Games in Hanoi, was given the honour of being the final torchbearer to take flame to cauldron in the symbolic gesture. 

Already, Thailand showed why they are the regional sporting kingpins, already top of the medal tally with at least two gold medals already won before competition has officially begun. 

Team Singapore brought home seven golds, nine silvers and 12 bronzes from the last edition held just a year ago in Indonesia.

The 12th Asean Para Games are held in Cambodia from 3 to 9 June 2023. For the latest Team Singapore coverage and news, follow Team Singapore on their social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) or visit the official Team Singapore website.