Don't expect short cuts on the road to success

Jack Lai uses a modified motorbike to get to work. An attached sidecar stores his wheelchair which can be disassembled.
Jack Lai uses a modified motorbike to get to work. An attached sidecar stores his wheelchair which can be disassembled.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Jack Lai, 58, wheelchair racing

Polio

The commute to the Ministry of Manpower where I work as a petition writer takes about 30 minutes on my modified motorcycle.

There's a sidecar attached, to store my wheelchair. I usually roll up next to my bike and, with my prosthetic legs, I can prop myself up on the bike. The wheelchair can be disassembled easily.

On weekends, I drive a modified car with hand controls to ferry my family around.

My journey...

Growing up with polio since the age of one was tough. People then were not as educated and having a disabled child was somewhat taboo. I had an inferiority complex when I was younger.

SPIN-OFF

If, at the same time, I can inspire people through my achievements, that would be a bonus.

ACK LAI, on competing in the APG

My younger sister, who passed away in the 1980s due to a high fever, had Down Syndrome. There were two disabled kids in the family and it was hard on my parents.

I felt ostracised, even by my friends. Sometimes, when they went running or hiking, they avoided calling me because I could not keep up with them.

I was never very active until I tried wheelchair basketball when I was 18. I switched to wheelchair racing three years later because I prefer individual sports, where I just depend on myself.

Wheelchair racing is a very thrilling sport. I like the feeling of going fast. I can't cycle so this is the next best thing.

Sport changed my life. It boosted my self-esteem and taught me leadership skills.

I learnt patience, which is very crucial because things don't happen instantly and the same applies to sport.

If you want results, you need to spend time and work hard at it.

I go to the gym three times a week and I have a strong body now and weigh 65kg but I used to be a scrawny kid who was 45kg.

It's important for a disabled person to be physically active because it also gives you a more healthy outlook on life.

I have trained very hard for these Games, I'm going for gold.

If, at the same time, I can inspire people through my achievements, that would be a bonus.

I want to show my kids that despite my situation, I am an active person and I can still find my own avenue of enjoyment and interest.

It doesn't mean that just because you are confined to a chair that you cannot enjoy life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'Don't expect short cuts on the road to success'. Print Edition | Subscribe