Para sports gaining traction in Singapore

Despite being shorter than his team-mates, Pranav C. Balu intends to train harder to make up for his physical disadvantage.
Despite being shorter than his team-mates, Pranav C. Balu intends to train harder to make up for his physical disadvantage.

At 16, Pranav C. Balu never thought he was mature enough to join the national cerebral palsy (CP) football team.

But the Northlight School student became the youngest member of the team after he was invited to their weekly training sessions in March.

Pranav, who has hemiplegia, which restricts movement on the right side of his body, is still learning the ropes from his older team-mates.

He said: "I'm happy to be invited to join them and play. I didn't think about playing in this team before.

"I think I feel rather child-like sometimes because I am playing with bigger men. They have more stamina than me and during training, they do lunges, something which I am not used to doing."

Despite his lack of experience, coach Mohamed Zainudeen allowed the striker to come on as a substitute against Indonesia in an invitational tournament last month.

Pranav said of that match, which Singapore lost 1-6: "I was shorter than the other players. I could not jump very high and even stopping the ball was difficult."

But he intends to train harder to make up for his physical disadvantage. And he will be taking to heart the advice of star striker Khairul Anwar, who starred for hosts Singapore at the Asean Para Games last December.

"He told me that when I join the team, I must be serious and I must train hard," said Pranav.

Football - both five-a-side (for visually impaired) and seven-a-side (mix of intellectually disabled and CP players) - is part of the 19 sports that will be contested at the Singapore National Para Games (SNPG).

The competition, which was launched yesterday at the Singapore Sports School, will be held over two months (yesterday to Oct 1) and is expected to draw more than 550 participants.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said in her speech: "The SNPG enables both elite and aspiring para athletes in Singapore to compete."

Raja Singh, vice-president of the Singapore Disability Sports Council, added that he is keen to consider hosting a National Games for youth in the future too.

He said: "This event is not for show only. It is for the growth of our athletes. Even though the numbers might not seem that big, but in every sport, we have seen significant growth.

"We hope that the event can give continuous momentum to (the growth of) disability sports here."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Para sports gaining traction in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe