Grit

Asean Para Games 2015: Shooter fired up by new aim after injury

Alvina Neo opted for air pistol shooting because her shoulder injury ruled her out of "99.9 per cent of the sports" offered at next week's Asean Para Games. She is targeting a personal best result.
Alvina Neo opted for air pistol shooting because her shoulder injury ruled her out of "99.9 per cent of the sports" offered at next week's Asean Para Games. She is targeting a personal best result.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Alvina Neo, 26, was halted by dislocated shoulder but the hand-cyclist has other targets in her sights

The 15 profiles of Singapore athletes, each with his or her distinctive story to tell, continues today with the themes Grit and Inspiration.


On a dry, chilly October morning, Alvina Neo took her first steps to becoming a shooter.

Perhaps not steps, but tyre revolutions.

It was the fourth of her six laps in the cycling women's 48.6km (H4) road race at last year's Asian Para Games in Incheon. Midway, the looming slope turned into a lofty Everest for the hand-cyclist.

A routine push to propel her hand-bicycle forward saw her left shoulder pop out of position.

Shoulder dislocated but job far from done.

She recalls matter-of-factly: "I wasn't dead, nor was I dying. The third and only other option was to continue the race and just finish it.

FRESH CHALLENGE

I couldn't use both arms for sports because of my shoulder and I tried going through a list of sports of what I can and can't do.

ALVINA NEO

"I didn't care if I came in last or if my timing was not good. I just wanted to finish the race."

After battling for another 1.5 laps, Neo finally stopped - not by choice but by a race official's decision.

Stopped in her tracks by her shoulder dislocation, the 26-year-old now has other targets in sight.

Next month, she will wear Singapore's colours at the Asean Para Games - as a shooter in the P2 women's 10m air pistol.

Neo is competing in the SH1 category.

She said: "I couldn't use both arms for sports because of my shoulder and I tried going through a list of sports of what I can and can't do.

"It seemed like I couldn't do 99.9 per cent of the sports nor would my physiotherapist approve.

  • SHOOTING

  • GOLDS ON OFFER: 7


    TEAM SINGAPORE

    MEN: Logaraj Raju, Ritchie Chan, Jonathan Yoon, Ben Sim, Kelvin Aik, Kumar Adiapatham, Ling Teck Mong.

    WOMEN: Angie Lim, Aishah Samad, Alvina Neo, Faridah Salleh.


    LAST APG: Not featured. It was last included during Korat 2008 in Thailand, where Singapore did not win a medal.


    ABOUT THE SPORT: There are events over 10m, 25m and 50m but only 10m events are included in the APG.


    CLASSIFICATION: There are three classes but athletes at the Games will compete in only two.

    SH1: Pistol and rifle events. Athletes with lower limb impairments and either no or an upper limb impairment that does not prevent the athlete from supporting the weapon.

    SH2: Rifle events. Athletes who also have more severe upper limb impairments, requiring firearm support.

"That left me with air pistol shooting because I only need one arm (to fire the weapon)."

Spoken like a true champion who has refused to let spina bifida - a congenital condition resulting in the incomplete development of the spinal cord - dictate what she can do in sport, and in life.

Neo requires the help of a forearm crutch and a pair of ankle-foot orthoses to move around but she has accomplished far more than the average Singaporean.

She has raced (hand-cycle) in two Sundown Marathons, participated in four Vertical Marathons, scaled Mount Ophir and is also an avid dragon boater.

In Incheon, she featured in two events in her maiden appearance - the 48.6km race and 16.2km H3 individual time trial final.

Still, Neo admitted that her injury rehabilitation process was one of the toughest obstacles she has ever faced so far.

"My shoulder would pop out every other day," she said.

"I needed to figure which position it was out and put it back in the correct way.

"If I couldn't put it in, it would be off to the hospital for sedation."

Not only did Neo have to cope with the pain, she also had to deal with the medication's side-effects.

She revealed: "It sent me spiralling downward.

"It affected my memory, my social interactions.

"I couldn't function in crowds.

"For me to be on that much medication, to not be able to do sports or to know what my future would be like, that was quite daunting."

But with the support of family and friends -and shooting - she bounced back.

While shooting, which requires stillness, differs starkly from her previous sports, which demand frantic physical motion, she has grown to love her new passion.

"It's very satisfying when you beat your own scores," said Neo.

Her scores have improved from 290 out of a possible 400, to a current total of 367.

She is aiming for a new personal best at the Games.

"With each failure, you evaluate yourself and that applies not just to shooting but in life."

She added: "Dealing with challenges works both ways.

"They either make you stronger or break you.

"It broke me many times and now I'm strengthened with every challenge."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'SHOOTER FIRED UP BY NEW AIM AFTER INJURY'. Print Edition | Subscribe