June 23, 2023
SINGAPORE – When he was overtaken in the third lap of the men’s 1,500m final, Singapore runner Irving Tan began to feel nervous.
After all, he was the youngest competitor in his category, and it was his first time competing abroad.
But the 17-year-old stuck to the plan he had discussed with his coach and kept his pace throughout to eventually finish first in the Level C event at the Special Olympics World Games on Wednesday.
This was also the Republic’s first gold medal at the June 17-25 competition in Berlin, Germany.
Irving finished the race in 5min 57.59sec. Germany’s Florian Schweng was second in 6:02.51, with Togo’s Koffivi Agbobli third in 6:06.97
Calling the win a huge achievement, Irving said: “I planned to pace myself in the first 800m to 1,200m and told myself to run all out in the last 300m.
“When my competitors started overtaking me (in the third lap), I was very nervous as I thought I was going to lose.
“But I did not let that affect me and continued to pace myself through the race.”
Irving also had to deal with pre-competition jitters, as he was aware of the older competitors in the race. But he turned that into motivation instead.
“I reminded myself that as I am younger, I have more advantage to run faster than them.”
His coach Sheree Lim, who had been working with him since last December, was proud of her protege’s display.
She said: “He did not back down despite the opponents overtaking him… In the last 300m, we saw him finishing as strong as he could have as he overtook two runners and finished with his personal best.”
She revealed that Irving trained thrice a week from March, and twice outside of his usual programme.
Describing Irving as “bubbly”, Lim said: “He brings a positive sense of energy to the team and pushes not just himself, but also his teammates to do their best during every training.”
Teammate Siti Nurhazimah Hamzah won a bronze medal in the women’s 1,500m Level C final, clocking 7:27.41 to finish ahead of competitors from Bermuda, Germany and the United States.
Head of delegation Linda Prebhash said of the two runners’ showing: “They have trained long and hard for their moment on the world stage, with the tireless guidance from their coaches and wonderful support from the staff from the Special Olympics Singapore office.”
Meanwhile, Singapore’s oldest athlete at this meet, Tham Kar Soon, 41, finished fifth in the bocce men’s singles event.
The tournament is held for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Singapore is represented in six sports by 30 athletes and unified partners, who are persons without intellectual disabilities competing in the same team.