A path to the wider world has opened up

Throwing a ball at another seems easy but Juni Syafiqa Jumat says spasms, because of her condition, can complicate matters.
Throwing a ball at another seems easy but Juni Syafiqa Jumat says spasms, because of her condition, can complicate matters.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Juni Syafiqa Jumat, 20, boccia player

Cerebral Palsy

Most of the places I visit are near my home in Pasir Ris so I can "drive" there on my motorised wheelchair. If I want to travel further, I use public transport. I try to avoid peak hours as it gets crowded and people are in a rush and sometimes they might not make space for me in the lifts.

My journey...

Boccia has allowed me to see the world. My first time on an aeroplane was in 2013 when I was selected to represent Singapore in a friendly competition in Hong Kong.

CROSSING NEW BORDERS

Now I've been to Myanmar (2014 Asean Para Games) and South Korea (2014 Incheon Asian Para Games).

JUNI SYAFIQA JUMAT

I remember it was scary at first, especially when the plane was wobbling at take-off, but it was an amazing feeling to be flying in the clouds.

The furthest I had travelled before that was to Johor Baru with my family. Now I've been to Myanmar (2014 Asean Para Games) and South Korea (2014 Incheon Asian Para Games) and made many new friends.

Besides giving me such opportunities, sport has also changed me. I used to be a very shy and quiet person but I think I've become more outgoing since I picked up boccia about four years ago.

I was studying at the Spastic Children's Association School (now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore) and a teacher, Madam Lanny Kwok, introduced the game to me.

I tried swimming before but stopped after six months. I didn't like being in the water.

What I like about boccia is how challenging it is. At first, I thought it looked boring and easy, just throwing a ball at another ball.

But it's much harder than that, especially when you're about to toss the ball and you have a spasm, which is quite common for cerebral palsy (CP) patients, and you have to learn to control your body.

It teaches you discipline, focus and hard work. When I started, I could throw the ball only 3m but now the longest I can throw is 7m.

I've never won a medal for Singapore so I really hope I can get one next month.

It'll be the first time that my family gets to see me compete in a major competition.

Even though I'm very nervous about it, having the support of the home crowd will be a great motivation too.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'A path to the wider world has opened up'. Print Edition | Subscribe