Allianz Para Swimming World Championships
31 July - 6 August

Manchester 2023: The winner mentality of Singapore's most decorated Paralympian

'Over the years, I’ve really learned how to manage the pressure,' Yip Pin Xiu says ahead of the Para Swimming World Championships 28 Jun 2023
An underwater image of a female Para swimmer
Singapore's Yip Pin Xiu is one of the main stars of this year's Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester
ⒸAdam Pretty/Getty Images
By Jay Cooper | For Manchester 2023

Yip Pin Xiu seems to have answers to all the problems that can foreseeably come her way – especially if they come in the swimming pool.

As she prepares for the Manchester 2023 Para Swimming World Championships - the most important stop in the road to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games - she looked back at her career and shared the secret to her success.

After displaying symptoms of her condition very early in her life, Yip first took up Para swimming to improve her health and strengthen her muscles, as well as to spend more time with her brothers who were also keen swimmers.

Despite losing her ability to walk by age 13, her love of the water only developed, and she was determined to swim at a competitive level.

In fact, she would smash way past a mere “competitive level”. She has five Paralympic gold medals to her name, in addition to three gold and two silver medals at the Para Swimming World Championships. The four-time Paralympian has also won a gold and two bronzes from the Asian Para Games.

With all these accomplishments, Yip, who made her Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008, is considered Singapore's most decorated Paralympian in history. 

And she is not ready to slow down. Speaking ahead of the Citi Para Swimming World Series Great Britain 2023 in Sheffield, she shared how she has faced "a lot of obstacles along the way" but kept swimming.

“For me, what I always like to do, is to be in the moment. When any negative thoughts creep up on me, I tend to just let go of things that I cannot control and focus on the things that I can,” Pin added. 

This is something that has always shown itself with Yip, even at a young age. 

“At age 12, I started swimming competitively. When I was 14, my coach printed out the world rankings, sat down with me and said, ‘I know you’re taking this very seriously already, but if you put in that much more effort…one day, we might be able to get somewhere’, and that’s when it became a dream for me to reach the Paralympics.” 

Enjoying competition

Maybe one thing that has helped her stay so cool and gather all the experience she needs to compete at the top level of the sport is that, in her own words, “I actually really enjoy competition nerves. I realised that the nerves are the best when you care about something. So, when you care about the competition, then there’s the nerves, and nerves actually really help me to race faster and better. I do my breathing exercises to manage them physically.”

With such a glittering record book already to her name, what this does invite are high expectations. But as an experienced athlete, Yip knows how to deal with this kind of thing too. 

“I think, over the years, I’ve really learned how to manage the pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes, but we all need a little push sometimes and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

In a sport like swimming the mental pressures also come with plenty of physical demand, especially for someone who is not as young as those around them. 

“I was just telling my friends,”, Yip said, “with age, my body isn’t what it was anymore. But it’s a lot more about learning to eat right, sleep better, recover well, and cross my fingers and hope that I wake up OK. And, within training itself, it’s up to the coach to manage the loads too, and we really work together as a team.”

With the Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester just around the corner, a qualifying event for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, it would take something unfortunate and unforeseen to keep Yip off the stage in Paris, especially given how she approaches these events. 

“I’m learning to trust the process. I’m confident that my training will show, and I’m confident enough to know that I’ll have done my very best, and whatever will be will be.”

If we get the good fortune to speak to her again after the French summer of 2024, we may well be speaking to a six-time (or more) Paralympic champion. Either way, Yip’s advice to “be committed in whatever you do” is the best piece of advice that any young swimmer could hear.

More information about the Manchester 2023 Para Swimming World Championships can be found here.