Tokyo Paralympics: Yip Pin Xiu matches Rio 2016 feat with second gold

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Singapore swimmer Yip Pin Xiu celebrates after winning gold in the women's 50m backstroke (S2) final at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)
Singapore swimmer Yip Pin Xiu celebrates after winning gold in the women's 50m backstroke (S2) final at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Five golds and one silver won over four Paralympic appearances. And Yip Pin Xiu - undoubtedly Singapore's most successful Paralympian - is not done with winning yet. 

The 29-year-old continued her dominance in the women's backstroke (S2) races on Thursday (2 September), as she swept to her second gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

She clocked a season-best 1 minute 2.04 seconds to retain her women's 50m backstroke (S2) Paralympic title at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, 4.94 seconds ahead of silver-medallist Miyuki Yamada of Japan (1:06.98). China's Feng Yazhu took the bronze medal in 1:11.55. 

Moments after receiving her gold medal, Yip told Yahoo News Singapore in a Zoom interview: she is going for more at the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

"I do want to go to Paris. It is exciting because three years is a very short turnaround, we have to dive straight into it," she said. 

"Obviously it won't be easy after a very tiring five-year preparation for Tokyo, but I'm still excited about the challenge."

Singapore swimmer Yip Pin Xiu with her gold medal in the women's 50m backstroke (S2) event at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)
Singapore swimmer Yip Pin Xiu with her gold medal in the women's 50m backstroke (S2) event at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)

Tense moments in final as Yip trails rival early in the race

Thursday's result meant that Yip equalled her two-gold effort at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, although she did not set world records along with her victories as she had done five years ago. 

The two golds are the only Paralympic medals won by Singapore so far in Tokyo, with only swimmer Toh Wei Soong left to compete in the final three days of competition. 

During the morning heats, Yip had qualified fastest among nine competitors in a time of 1:03.61, 5.83 seconds ahead of second-fastest qualifier Yamada. She still holds the world record of this event at 59.38sec, set during her gold-medal swim at the Rio Games.

In the final, 14-year-old Yamada led for the first 25 metres, but lost steam from then on, allowing Yip to power past and clinch the victory. Yip admitted that she had some anxious moments as she trailed her young opponent.

"I did sneak a look at where she was, about three times during the race," she said with a laugh. "She was very close with me, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.'

"But my team had a game plan and I stuck to it, going as fast as I can for 25, 35 metres and then holding on for the final stretch. When I touched the wall, I looked up and I saw only my name had the time beside it, and I knew I had won and I was overjoyed. 

"Honestly, I was so nervous today that I had to call my coach who was in Singapore. But we just really focused on the process and he assured me that we got this."

Plans to set up swim school for kids

Prior to her two golds in Tokyo, Yip – who has a muscular dystrophy condition that causes the muscles on her limbs to degenerate – had already won three golds and one silver since making her Paralympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The former Nominated Member of Parliament won her first gold in the women's 50m backstroke (S3) event in Beijing, and as her muscles degenerated with age, she moved to the S2 category and won another two golds in Rio, setting world records in the women's 50m and 100m backstroke races.

Even as she sets her sights on Paris 2024, Yip reveals that she is planning to set up a swim school for both able-bodied and disabled kids.

"It's something that I had wanted to do for a long while," she said. "Swimming is not just a skill, you also learn (traits) such as resilience, and I want to be able to spread these life skills to the next generation." 

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