Asean Para Games: Para-cyclist Emily Lee to fulfil need for speed at Games

Kelly Fan, Singapore Disability Sports Council executive director (centre), receiving the $120,000 sponsorship cheque from Tarn Sien Hao, group general manager of Haw Par. With them is Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.
Kelly Fan, Singapore Disability Sports Council executive director (centre), receiving the $120,000 sponsorship cheque from Tarn Sien Hao, group general manager of Haw Par. With them is Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Speed has always given Formula One and go-kart fan Emily Lee an adrenaline rush.

She got a dose of that as she "flew" yesterday night at indoor skydiving facility iFly Singapore at Sentosa, where Haw Par Corporation presented a sponsorship cheque of $120,000 to the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC).

The 47-year-old, who is blind, will finally fulfil her childhood dream and satisfy her need for speed by competing in a tandem cycling race next month at the Asean Para Games (APG).

It will be her second appearance at the Games, having made her debut at the 2015 edition held on home soil as part of the goalball team.

This time, she is part of the nine-member cycling team who will be competing across three classes: handcycling, tandem cycle and bicycle.

Singapore will be sending its largest away contingent of 92 para-athletes and they will compete in 11 sports at the Kuala Lumpur Games. The previous biggest away contingent was 57, which took part in the 2008 Korat Games.

Lee learnt how to cycle when she was still partially blind. She became fully blind when she was 28 after surgeons could not save her sight despite two retina operations.

She said: "I loved cycling and racing but my dad did not allow me to ride because he said it could be unsafe for me. So when my father was not home, I would borrow my elder brother's bike to try on my own.

"I would go to East Coast Park to rent a bicycle to ride, and go on cycling dates during my younger days. But I stopped cycling entirely when I was 28."

So she was thankful when given the chance to get back on the saddle earlier this year, with the SDSC wanting to assemble a bicycle and tandem cycling team for the APG.

Singapore's tandem cyclists will enjoy a turbo boost because among their pilots - a sighted cyclist - is SEA Games champion Calvin Sim.

On Monday, the track cyclist won Singapore's first regional title in the sport in 20 years.

Sim will be partnering Lee's husband Jessen Ng, 55, who is partially blind and will be making his APG debut.

The other pilots are Ang Kee Meng, Singapore Cycling Federation vice-president (track), Sarah Tan and Jeynelle Lee, who are in the national development squad.

Lee said: "I see him (Sim) as my motivation, I also hope to be able to bring a medal home."

The para-cycling team coach Christian Stauffer hailed the close relationship between able-bodied and para-athletes.

He said: "If you want a good tandem, you must have a proficient pilot and a good stoker (the rider behind the pilot).

"Having them supporting us really helps.

"We are not going there with our hands in our pockets. We are going there to put up a good fight and I hope that they can win a medal."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Para-cyclist Lee to fulfil need for speed at Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe