Basketball: The many detours in Lim Wai Sian's life

Former national basketball player Lim Wai Sian, who suffered a life-threatening injury in 2010 which saw part of his skull replaced with plastic. He could not give up the game he loved until he realised his dream of turning out for Singapore at the 2
Former national basketball player Lim Wai Sian, who suffered a life-threatening injury in 2010 which saw part of his skull replaced with plastic. He could not give up the game he loved until he realised his dream of turning out for Singapore at the 2011 SEA Games. Now a private tutor, Lim will be releasing a book on his journey today.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Faced with a life-threatening burst blood vessel in his brain after a fall during basketball training in 2010, giving up was never an option for Lim Wai Sian.

He spent three weeks in total at Alexandra Hospital and the National University Hospital, including a week battling for his life in the intensive care unit, as he underwent two operations. The first to remove part of the right side of his skull and the second to insert a plastic plate.

Not only did he make a successful recovery, but Lim also returned to the court - despite initial objections from his mother Tan Lai Ngoh - and fulfilled a childhood dream when he donned national colours as part of the Singapore team at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia.

Having shown remarkable resilience after his injury, Lim, whose nickname is Lao Lao (which translates to grandmother in Mandarin), had to find a similar conviction to walk away from the game he loved.

Despite being offered a spot on the Singapore Slingers roster for the 2012 Asean Basketball League (ABL) season, Lim, who was part of the Slingers squad that lost in the semi-finals of the 2009-10 ABL campaign, turned down the chance to rejoin his former team-mates.

It was one of the hardest decisions of his life, Lim told The Straits Times. The 29-year-old is now a private tutor in his elder brother Jovan's tuition business.

He said: "There were a few factors. First, my parents were still very worried because if I continued I would be playing every day.

PUSH FACTOR

I had no savings. And friends were asking me if basketball was the best way for me to earn a living going forward.

LIM WAI SIAN , former national basketball player, on why he gave up playing the sport professionally

"My finances at the time were also in bad shape. I had no savings. And friends were asking me if basketball was the best way for me to earn a living going forward."

He went back to school, eventually graduating with an engineering degree from the Nanyang Technological University.

"It's a cruel reality in sports that you can't play forever, maybe up to 35 years old for me if I continued," he said. "I told myself, 'No point staying at the peak of this mountain, why not go and climb another to get a different view of life'."

Learning when to let go and pursue a different path was the inspiration behind his decision to write about his life.

Lim is launching his book titled Rebound: LaoLao's Guide To Giving Up at Presbyterian High's indoor sports hall from 2pm today.

"I've been a tutor for five to six years and I've noticed many of my students lack motivation in their studies. If this behaviour continues, it will become their life when they get older," he said.

"I want to tell them that it is not always a straight path to your goal, but that in life you will have to make many detours."

Retiring from competitive basketball was hard, he admitted.

Lim was part of the pioneering group of seven local players who broke into the Slingers side in 2009.

While veterans like Michael Wong and Pathman Matialakan have since retired, Lim's peers Desmond Oh, 31, and Wong Wei Long, 29, are still plying their trade with the country's only professional basketball team.

Despite his familiarity with them, Lim does not watch any Slingers or national team matches, not even when the men won bronze at the 2015 Games on home soil.

"Maybe deep down in my heart, that's the reason I don't watch because if I go, I'll be thinking that I should be the one playing, not the one sitting there and watching them," said Lim.

"A bit xin suan (Mandarin for bittersweet) lah, but that's just life. You have to choose different paths at different times in your life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2017, with the headline 'The many detours in Lao Lao's life'. Print Edition | Subscribe