She’s a five-time Paralympics gold medallist, world-record holder and was the youngest nominated Member of Parliament (NMP).
But before swimmer Yip Pin Xiu became one of Singapore’s most-decorated athletes, she was a kid who was stared at and bullied in school.
On the latest episode of Jean Danker’s R U Okay podcast, Pin Xiu revealed: “I used to wear leg braces and people would stare. My mum said, ‘If people stare, just look back at their legs, just stare back.’
“And it worked! Once people were conscious that they were staring, they stopped and ran off to do something else.”
Pin Xiu appeared on the mental health podcast with a brace on her left arm as well — she had recently broken it in a fall.
The challenges she had to face growing up, the 30-year-old reckoned, made her “really tough”.
However, she had a caveat to make: “Not that [toughness] is necessarily a good thing because, at this stage, it takes me more to be vulnerable and let people in. It’s always good to have a balance.”
Pin Xiu said she was “ostracised” in school but acknowledged that, especially in the earlier years of primary school, “young kids don’t know how to react to different people” and would treat her differently.
However, what really affected her was when teachers joined in with the bullying.
“There would be a lot of people laughing, saying things, leaving me behind,” she said. “I was okay with the kids doing it but it was the teachers who did it that really hurt me.”
“As educators, you should know better,” Jean, 44, agreed.
Pin Xiu recalled that she had a teacher with a limp who was nice to her as she understood some of her struggles but a few of her teachers weren’t as kind.
Even in the face of her being bullied in class, one of her teachers refused to step in.
“I was crying in the middle of class because somebody threw things at me every 10 seconds,” she said. “When I stood up, I would see a whole pile of eraser dust, staples and everything on my chair.”
This time, however, her mum’s advice didn’t work. She had told Pin Xiu to inform the teachers if she was being bullied but Pin Xiu said that this teacher “ignored me and continued the class”.
Despite the hardships, Pin Xiu revealed that she has always been a positive person, though she admits she doesn’t know how she managed to remain optimistic as a kid.
She said: “Maybe having this disability since I was young and going through it in my younger years helped me develop this shell whereby I know that, even if something bad is happening, I need to find something good in it.”
But it wasn’t until she discovered swimming that she really found herself, she admitted.
Five gold medals later, Pin Xiu sees herself swimming competitively for another “two to six years”.
Living in the four-year cycles of the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, her next goal is to go to Paris, the city hosting the sporting event in 2024.
ALSO READ: Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu to receive newly-created President’s Award for Inspiring Achievement
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