National Day supplement

Celebrating sporting spirit: Fighting injury and pain to get back in the swim

For Jeremia Christy Suriadi, to be able to stand at the start line at the upcoming SEA Games is victory enough. "It's been a dream of mine for so long," said the 20-year-old who will be part of the Republic's triathlon team.
For Jeremia Christy Suriadi, to be able to stand at the start line at the upcoming SEA Games is victory enough. "It's been a dream of mine for so long," said the 20-year-old who will be part of the Republic's triathlon team.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Hit by a lorry while cycling along Woodlands Avenue 12 in October 2014, Jeremia Christy Suriadi's fledgling career as a triathlete looked to be over at the age of 17.

The then fifth-year Singapore Sports School student suffered compression fractures in seven vertebrae and a fractured hip bone, and was bedridden for two weeks.

Doctors warned that her mobility might be affected in the long run.

Three years on, she has not only returned to the sport, but will also be realising a longtime dream later this month when she makes her SEA Games debut in Kuala Lumpur.

The way back to fighting fitness was slow, at times almost unbearably so. "(The bed rest) was what I struggled with most, because coming from a very active background, just staying still and being alone with my thoughts was really tough," said Christy, 20.

"Some of the thoughts were pretty negative, like what if I couldn't recover in time, or what if I couldn't do the sport any more."

But she brought to bear on her rehabilitation process the fighting spirit of the long-distance athlete to endure and push through pain.

"I felt I had more potential in the sport that I wanted to realise, so I really gave my all to recovery, such as going for physiotherapy sessions, eating the right food and getting enough rest," said the third-year environment and water technology student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

(The bed rest) was what I struggled with most, because coming from a very active background, just staying still and being alone with my thoughts was really tough... What if I couldn't recover in time, or what if I couldn't do the sport any more.

JEREMIA CHRISTY SURIADI, 20, who was involved in a road accident in 2014, but has now returned to triathlons and will be realising a long-time dream later this month when she makes her SEA Games debut in Kuala Lumpur.

She had recovered sufficiently by April 2015 to take part in her first competition since the accident, finishing second in the Tri-Factor Swim Women's Open 1.5km.

The standard triathlon comprises a 1.5km swim, a 40km cycling and a 10km run.

Coming back from injury was not the first time Christy had had to overcome an obstacle to her SEA Games dreams.

Enrolled in the Singapore Sports School as a swimmer from 2009, Christy had posted solid results in the pool. But she was overshadowed by faster contemporaries such as fellow 20-year-old and breaststroke swimmer Samantha Yeo, the holder of the national short course records for the 100m and 200m breaststroke.

By 2014, Samantha was a veteran of three SEA Games, while Christy was by her own admission "not at that level yet for swimming", finishing fourth in that year's 'A' Division girls' 50m breaststroke.

But she had discovered a new niche by then.

"The first few years in the Sports School, the school registered some of us in aquathlons - swim-run events - and I did surprisingly well in them," said Christy.

"A few coaches approached me and encouraged me to focus more on multi-sport events."

That switch has paid dividends, with Christy now part of the Republic's triathlon squad for the upcoming SEA Games. She said: "I've been training really hard for a while, and I was beyond excited to learn I would be going to the SEA Games."

This year's contingent will aim to better the record haul of 259 medals, 84 of them gold, from the last edition on home soil.

For Christy though, to be able to stand at the start line is victory enough. "It's been a dream of mine for so long... Now it's here and while there's still a long journey ahead I want to do my best."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Fighting injury and pain to get back in the swim'. Print Edition | Subscribe