Singapore’s first-ever double gold Paralympian has shared an emotional photo of herself celebrating with a veteran team mate who had just won her first medal after four Paralympics.
“The world doesn’t need to see my ugly crying face… But the world needs to know how proud I am of you,” Yip Pin Xiu said in her Instagram post marking Theresa Goh’s bronze medal win.
“You finally did it. You freaking did it.”
Goh, who has been a Paralympian since Athens 2004, came third in her 100m breaststroke category in Rio on Sunday night, taking Singapore’s second medal of the games.
Yip won Singapore’s first gold at Beijing in 2008, and on Saturday she shattered her own world record by two seconds in the 200m backstroke to take her second gold medal.
“Nobody knows our journey like us and I am so incredibly proud of you,” Yip said in her post to Goh.
“You are now a Paralympic medallist after 17 years of training and perseverance.”
But the women’s success has led to calls for Singaporean Paralympians to be given the same recognition and pay as Olympians.
In August, the city-state went into celebratory overdrive when swimmer Joseph Schooling beat his hero Michael Phelps to bring home its first ever Olympic gold medal.
He was given a hero’s welcome at the airport, a victory parade on an open-top bus and free flights for life on Air Asia, while numerous companies found a way to celebrate (or name-drop) Schooling in adverts. He was also given $1m Singaporean dollars ($735,000; £554,000) in prize money.
In contrast Yip is in line for S$160,000 before tax. Like Schooling, the money comes from the national Tote fund, and she’ll have to give a proportion back to the training council.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong praised Yip on Facebook as proof that “with hard work, determination and grit, we can overcome the odds”.
But the overwhelming response in the comments below was for the prime minister to ensure she was properly recognised.
“Yip is bringing even more GLORY TO SINGAPORE then Schooling because she did not allow her disability to stop her from achieving her Gold. She Should Be Rewarded the Same $1million reward as Schooling,” said one comment.
One warned Singapore “will be a laughing stock” if it didn’t offer Yip the same rewards.
“I hope you will also move a motion in parliament to congratulate her and hold a victory bus tour for her through the heartlands like what you did with Schooling,” said another. “Your actions will speak much louder than your words on Facebook.”
Pressure is also growing on Singaporean companies to offer Yip the same gold medal perks as Schooling. After Singapore Airlines posted a congratulatory message on Facebook, it was soon being asked if it would also be offering Yip air miles and a celebratory return trip home.
The national carrier asked people to “stay tuned” for their plans.
Yip told the Today newspaper after her win that she was grateful for all the support she’d had, but that many people still don’t believe her achievement can be compared to Schooling.
“They don’t think para-sports is the same as able-bodied sports,” she said.
“My answer… is that we put in the same amount of effort to get to where we are and it’s not easier being in para-sports.
“Joseph’s gold medal brought Singaporeans together. Hopefully, with this Paralympics gold medal, it would also be able to do the same. That’s the magic of sports.”