Friday, September 12, 2008

Para Vic

I am ambivalent about the achievements of Laurentia Tan at the Paralympics - the Olympics for the disabled, which is currently being held in Beijing, at the very same site that the 29th Olympics was held less than a month ago.

Yes, she was wearing the Singapore flag when she took not one, but two bronzes in her equestrian event. Being individual events, it can be argued that her achievements exceeded that of our table-tennis team's silver medal at the Olympics, it being a team effort. A letter writter has event pointed out the the monetary reward of $25,000 is far too small a sum compared to her Olympic counterparts' $250,000.

Yet, that ambivalence lingers, not only in me, but obviously in the rest of Singapore. No campaign bottle was uncocked, there were no victory parties nor parades and the press was subdued in its reporting about this achievement compared to how it reported the victory of our table-tennis team. The reason, perhaps, is that until she won those paralympic bronzes, she was a nobody in Singapore. From what little I gathered from the press, her parents brought her over to Britain when she was just 4 years old, and she has been there ever since. Her father probably did the right thing. It has given her daughter the chance to develop into a confident young women who is contributing productively to society. She is today employed as a Mental Health Worker in Britain, caring for those perhaps more fortunate than her. There must be an inspirational 'Chicken Soup' story here to be told and I am sure it will be told eventually.

For all the help that British society and medicine gave her over the course of her living with her disabilities and overcoming them, I thought that she should have put on the British flag in the Paralympics. For her achievements is a compliment and testimony to the British, more than to anyone on one of its former dominions. And this dominion, Singapore, should be honest and graceful to accept that it played very little part in her rehabilitation and conquest at these Paralympic games.

We would like to toast her victory with 'Majulah Singapore', but in this case, it perhaps should be more like 'God save the Queen!'
. Author: Nicolas Raymond

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