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Honoured for sporting firsts
by Shree Ann Mathavan

THEY overcame physical disabilities to achieve their sporting dreams - breaking records and achieving firsts for Singapore along the way.

Now paralympians Laurentia Tan and Yip Pin Xiu have been honoured for their ground-breaking wins.

At a gala dinner for Her World Woman of the Year at the Fullerton Hotel last night, the two sportswomen won the Young Woman Achiever of the Year award.

This is the first time two achievers have won, instead of the usual one, since the award was introduced in 1999.

Laurentia, 29, who became Asia's first paralympic medallist for equestrian events when she won two bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, flew in from London where she lives with her parents.

The hospitality management and tourism graduate from Oxford Brookes University said of her win: 'I'm very delighted and honoured to share the award with Pin Xiu.

'Hopefully with this, it will help raise awareness for people with disabilities and that with the right support, they too can achieve what they set out to do.'

Laurentia, who was born with cerebral palsy and profound deafness, has never let her disabilities hamper her in any way. Even though doctors initially told her that she wouldn't be able to walk, she now walks unaided and can even drives a car.

Laurentia, who can lip-read, also went on to become a mental health worker in England, although she quit last year to concentrate full-time on training.

Caring for the mentally ill is something she sees herself going back to eventually.

She said: 'I'll like to combine caring for the mentally ill with riding by providing equestrian therapy.'

She now trains thrice a week and is hoping to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Likewise, Pin Xiu exemplifies the same cheerful can-do spirit.

The 17-year-old , made history by winning the Republic's first Paralympic gold medal in the women's 50m (S3) backstroke. She also set two world records and won a silver in the 50m freestyle.

Pin Xiu, who uses a wheelchair, suffers from muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that is marked by progressive weakness and degeneration of the muscles which control movement.

She said of the award: 'I'm overwhelmed, very happy about it. No words can describe how I feel.'

While she admits that the going isn't always easy, having a role model and friend in Paralympian swimmer Theresa Goh, 22, a previous young achiever winner, makes life a lot easier.

Pin Xiu, who has plans to take up sports studies in a polytechnic this year, said of Theresa: 'She's my role model, my big sister. I had my lowest point two years ago when I was struggling with my studies, training and fell sick. I felt like giving up swimming then.'

But with Theresa's advice, she managed to overcome that bleak period and hasn't looked back since.

Equally deserving

Miss Elisabeth Gwee, editor of Her World , said of the decision by the eight-member judging panel: 'Both women left an indelible mark at last year's Paralympics.

'The judging panel felt that they equally deserved the recognition for their outstanding achievements.'

Apart from the Young Woman's Achiever of the Year award, the Woman of the Year award went to Madam Goh Soo Khim, 64, co-founder and former artistic director of the Singapore Dance Theatre.

The Her World Woman of The Year award is now in its 18th year.

Over the years, the winners include Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Ms Yu-Foo Yee Shoon and Ms Jennie Chua, chairman of the Community Chest. Past Young Woman Achiever of the Year winners include singers Kit Chan and Stefanie Sun.


Yip Pin Xiu


  • Won S'pore's first Paralympic gold medal in women's 50m (S3) backstroke.
  • Set two world records and won a silver in 50m freestyle.



  • Became Asia's first paralympic equestrian medallist when she won two bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games
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