The Malaysian contingent at the 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG) packed up their bags after the cauldron was doused at the Marina Bay Sands, last night to work towards recapturing the overall title after a 16-year lapse, when hosting the Games in 2017.

In the 3,110-seated gala ceremony that matched the spectacular opening of the biennial Games, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong closed the Games which was hosted by the Republic for the first time ever in their history.

The big moment for the athletes came when they marched into the dinner hall according to their country as during the opening ceremony and most of the athletes were dressed in track suits and waving mini flags of their countries.

As the curtains gracefully came down on the Singapore APG tonight, the region’s attention quickly shifted to Malaysia, host of the next edition of APG in parallel to the prestigious SEA Games in 2017.

This will mark Malaysia as the country to host the most number of APG after have hosted the inaugural edition in 2001 and later the 2009 edition, when the 2009 SEA Games host Laos backed-off due to financial problems and inexperience in providing disabled friendly sports facilities.

Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu handed over the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF) flag to the ASEAN Para Sports Federation president Datuk Zainal Abu Zahrin, which was later handed over to Youth and Sports Deputy Minister Datuk M. Saravanan.

Once the flag was handed, the national anthem, Negaraku was played in the hall while the national flag, ‘Jalur Gemilang’ was raised.

Saravanan later presented ‘Rimau’, a Malayan tiger doll, symbolising the fighting spirit of the athletes, followed by a mesmerizing multi-cultural performance.

The 2017 SEA Games and APG would mark a very special milestone in the country’s history as the Games will be staged on the occasion of the country’s 60th year of independence.

The ceremony also marked the end of Zainal’s tenure as the President of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation as he has decided to step down after holding office for 15 years.

The Board’s election to decide office bearers for 2016-19 term will be held on Friday night, 24 hours after the APG closing ceremony.

About 3,000 athletes from 10 ASEAN countries had fought for glory in the 15 sports contested, namely badminton, boccia, archery, athletics, sailing, table tennis, powerlifting, swimming, wheelchair basketball, five-a-side and seven-a-side football, goalball, tenpin bowling, shooting and chess.

The 316-member Malaysian contingent comprising 197 athletes and 119 officials finished third overall after bagging 52 gold, 58 silver and 37 bronze medals.

At the previous edition in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in January 2014, the Malaysian contingent also finished third with 49 gold, 46 silver and 37 bronze medals.

Malaysia’s best achievement was in 2001, when hosting the inaugural edition where the national contingent emerged overall champion with 132 gold medals. – BERNAMA

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