Broken bodies, giant spirits, world class athletes

Broken bodies, giant spirits, world class athletes

14 Jan 2016

I had the privilege of taking in some of the competition at the Asean Para Games when it was held in Singapore in December.

I had the privilege of taking in some of the competition at the Asean Para Games when it was held in Singapore in December.

Three thousand athletes and officials from across Southeast Asia competing in 15 sports.

The crowds, especially the one at the cerebral palsy football match I was at, were spirited, loud and I'm sure, an encouragement to the athletes.

But they were also small.

Which is a pity because the action on the field, in the water and on court, was spectacular.

Sure, the physical prowess on display couldn't quite compare with what world class able-bodied athletes are able to achieve.

But the spirit, the pushing of one's own boundaries, the sheer tenacity to overcome, was incomparable.

I went to watch the action on my own at first. Our Better World had told the story of Singapore's cerebral palsy football team and I wanted to support them.

My wife and son came with me the next day.

We didn't know the athletes who were triple jumping, racing on wheelchairs, throwing the discus and shot put, or playing table tennis.

Our first instinct was to look out for the person's disability.

"That guy has only one arm."

"One leg is skinnier than the other."

"How do they turn their wheelchairs?"

But after a while, we stopped looking.

Instead, we became engrossed in an exciting table-tennis match.

"Which side are you supporting?" my boy asked.

Singapore wasn't represented in this match, so we had no "natural" team to get behind.

But we found ourselves easily drawn into cheering for the Indonesian pair, celebrating each smash and wincing at each miss.

When they came from behind to finally pip their Malaysian rivals at the finish, there were clenched fists and excited shouts to claim "our" team's victory.

I hope this short foray into the para sports world leaves a lasting impression not just on my son, but on me as well.

If nothing else, I hope we learn a little bit of these athletes' sheer ability to overcome.

Watch the amazing story of the CP football guys.