PARLIAMENT: Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth

Freak accident leads to teen exploring para sports

Ms Foo joins the national para sailors for training at Changi Sailing Club every Saturday.
Ms Foo joins the national para sailors for training at Changi Sailing Club every Saturday.

When Ms Foo Xu Hui suffered a freak accident in Anderson Junior College in 2013 that led to her having to use a wheelchair, sports was the least of her concerns.

Tragedy had struck when her feet slipped while she was walking to the toilet. She fell and hurt her lower spine after hitting the edge of a kerb.

She said: "I was more scared of how my future would be affected. Could I continue to go to school?"

That accident may have robbed Ms Foo, now 19, of her ability to walk, but she took baby steps to sail in late February, joining the national para sailors for training at Changi Sailing Club every Saturday morning.

She had to repeat another year in school as she adjusted to life as a student with a disability.

Moving around in a school not equipped with wheelchair facilities meant a greater reliance on her friends.

For instance, her classmates had to support her in routine tasks such as going to the toilet and carrying her schoolbag.

As there are no lifts, male teachers would lift her up to the school hall for events and celebrations.

After a year, she felt that "life was becoming too mundane" and decided to pick up a sport after she completed her A levels.

"I wanted to explore para sports as it's a new possibility to me. If I take up an activity, I want to push my limits. I love the water."

Besides sailing, she can also start swimming later this year at Sengkang Sports Centre, one of the new centres set up for people with disabilities to take up sports.

But her sports involvement started last December when she volunteered at the Asean Para Games. Through watching athletes with disabilities compete, she was motivated to take the plunge.

She said: "If they can go through it, it motivates me to go beyond my circumstances."

Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'Freak accident leads to teen exploring para sports'. Print Edition | Subscribe