A conversation with Yip Pin Xiu, Theresa Goh and Dipna Lim Prasad, Paralympic and Olympic athletes

03 March 2017 - interviews

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we feature three women who have inspired us with their resilience and courage. Yip Pin Xiu, Theresa Goh and Dipna Lim Prasad are Singaporean athletes who have competed on the world’s biggest sporting stages. Pin Xiu and Theresa have five Paralympic medals between them, and Dipna has won two medals at the South East Asian Games.

2017’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Be Bold for Change’. Who better to speak to about it than three sportswomen who have bravely challenged their mental, physical and emotional capabilities? We hope their words inspire you.

Yip Pin Xiu was five when she started swimming lessons. “My mum asked [a swimming] coach if he could take me in and he agreed, which was very fortunate for me,” she says. “I don’t think a lot of [coaches] took in students with disabilities at that time.” Her journey into competitive swimming started when she was scouted at age 11 to join a local competition. At 13, she decided that she wanted to be a Paralympian. After years of tremendous hard work, Pin Xiu is now a three-time Paralympic gold medallist with two world records.

The Mindful Company (TMC): What did you want to be when you were a child?

Yip Pin Xiu (YPX): I wanted to be a lot of things growing up. When I was a child I wanted to be an actress. It just looked very fun.

TMC: How did your journey to the Paralympics begin?

YPX: I joined the national team when I was 12. After the first [training] session, I immediately fell asleep on the way home. It was exhausting but I think [training] shaped me into who I am today. It has taught me a lot about time-management, sacrificing and prioritising things. We cannot have it all in life. But if we work hard enough, we can have some of the things we really want. Along the way there were parts that were very hard and there were also parts where we talked about my how I could aim for Beijing [2008]. That was when the dream started.

TMC: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

YPX: One of the things I always remember is that in life I can worry a lot, like whether my competitor is going swim faster than me, whether my friends are going get better results than me. But all these are external and are things I cannot control. Instead of wasting my energy on worrying, I use it to focus on making myself better.

TMC: What quotation or saying inspires and motivates you?

YPX: To be better than what I was. My biggest competitor is myself. I’m training to beat the timings I had. If your competitor retires or quits, what do you then look forward to? When you only compete against yourself, you can continue [without external motivation].

TMC: What traits do you most value in yourself?

YPX: I think I’m proud of my perseverance. I will push myself to the extremes. When I’m very tired during training, I will still do one more set, or do something even when it’s not in the programme.

TMC: What traits do you most value in others?

YPX: I value people who are kind, hardworking and take action. Many people including myself often complain about a lot of things but as long as you eventually get [the job] done, it’s fine.

TMC: Who inspires you?

YPX: Different people have inspired me at different points in my life. When I was younger, it was Theresa [Goh]. When I was in poly, it was Michelle Kwan, the figure skater. At that point I had just finished Beijing [2008] and my ‘O’ Level results weren’t very good. I thought, “If I can do well in swimming, why can’t I do well in my studies too?” So I took a break from swimming and really focused on school. When I met Michelle, she told us how she could do many different things at a time, and I was inspired. She’s now a diplomat, and at that time I hoped I could take the same path.

Sometime last year, [I was inspired by] my 2008 self because it was more tiring training for Rio than Beijing. I think it’s age. When I look back, I wonder “How did I do it?” So it’s about wanting to do it again.

TMC: The 2017 International Women’s Day hashtag is #BeBoldForChange. What does this mean to you?

YPX: More equality, as sometimes we don’t get very equal treatment and we think that that’s the way it is. To me, this hashtag means stepping up and going for what you want regardless of whether you are a woman or not. I think it applies to everybody. To not have any limits, to just do what you want to do.

Theresa Goh started swimming because she enjoyed the feeling of being in the water. She describes her competitive swimming journey as “going with the flow”. Before she knew it, she was at her first Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. She decided to fully immerse herself in the sport thereafter, and won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics. She holds two world records.

The Mindful Company (TMC): What did you want to be when you were a child?

Theresa Goh (TG): I recall wanting to be a computer analyst, only because I thought the word "analyst" sounded really professional and cool; I had no idea what the job entailed. At some point, I probably wanted to be a postman too. I liked the repetitive motion of putting mail into mailboxes.

TMC: How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?

TG: I think it's normal to have moments of self-doubt. For me, what helps is knowing why I want to do something and to keep that goal in mind. To be courageous in that first step and to keep moving forward.

TMC: Has learning from a failure ever led to success?

TG: At Beijing [2008], I was gunning for a medal but things didn't work out. It was the worst point of my career and life. I was really devastated at having trained for four years, sacrificing a lot of time with friends and family, eating and dreaming swimming, and then coming away with no medal.

I had to take some time away from the pool to recuperate and refresh. I think that whole experience of failure helped me become a stronger person mentally, a smarter swimmer, and a happier person.

TMC: What traits do you most value in others?

TG: Kindness.

TMC: What does success mean to you?

TG: Success to me means being happy with what you've achieved.

TMC: What traits do you admire most in other women?

TG: Their strength. I see a lot more of women taking back their power and being real feminist voices. It’s okay that we are all different, physically or mentally. The most important thing is that we aren't bringing each other down to lift ourselves up.

TMC: The 2017 International Women’s Day hashtag is #BeBoldForChange. What does this mean to you?

TG: To me, that means that sometimes we have to be brave and get out of our comfort zone for positive change to happen.

TMC: Who’s your favourite athlete?

TG: Yip Pin Xiu.

TMC: What’s your favourite book?

TG: Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Dipna Lim Prasad is a sprinter and hurdler. She started running when she was ten years old, but only decided to become a serious athlete when she was at university. “I learnt that there was a difference between playing a sport and being a serious athlete,” she says. She has since represented Singapore at numerous international competitions, including the 2012 Summer Olympics, and holds a national record for the 400m hurdles.

The Mindful Company (TMC): What did you want to be when you were a child?

Dipna Lim Prasad (DLP): I wanted to do and be too many things. I wanted to be a surgeon, then a paleontologist. But I think I still don’t really know what I want to be, and I’m okay with that.

TMC: How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?

DLP: I keep my head down and focus on the now by setting the smallest goals and only thinking of the next step—it’s a lot more manageable that way. But when the present seems overwhelming I shift my mindset to the big picture and the problem seems smaller and less significant.

TMC: What quotation or saying inspires and motivates you?

DLP: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”  Rumi 
“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.”  Oscar Wilde 
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; / I lift my eyes and all is born again.” — Sylvia Plath

TMC: Name a fear that keeps you up at night.

DLP: What if my best isn’t good enough?

TMC: What would you tell yourself five to ten years ago that you wish you knew then?

DLP: That it’s okay to be alone and not know where you’re headed.

TMC: Who inspires you?

DLP: My mum. She is strong, smart, responsible resourceful…the list goes on. One of my favourite things about her is her love for my siblings and me. No matter how hard her day is, she beams widely the moment we walk into the room, or when we call her, you hear her voice light up. It’s the most precious thing.

TMC: The 2017 International Women’s Day hashtag is #BeBoldForChange. What does this mean to you?

DLP: To me that means standing your ground and embracing the version of yourself you want to be. I think we try too much to fit into a box or be what we think others perceive as “perfect”. Imperfections make us who we are, and that’s what we should embrace!

TMC: Who’s your favourite athlete?

DLP: Allyson Felix.

TMC: What’s your favourite book?

DLP: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

What does #BeBoldforChange mean to you and who are the women that inspire you? We’d love to hear from you at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team