Para-sports: Changing views at inclusive sports fest

Participants having fun playing wheelchair rugby at Our Tampines Hub Community Auditorium yesterday. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Inaugural event allows public to experience what it takes for para-athletes to do sports

Edwin Tan is a chess player, but the 23-year-old runs more often in one week than he sits down for chess games.

Tan, who is blind and recognises people mainly based on hearing, runs thrice every week - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - with Runninghour, an inclusive group which involves able-bodied runners running alongside people with disabilities.

Tan, who will make his second Asean Para Games appearance in September at Kuala Lumpur, has been hooked onto running since he first joined them in September 2012.

So, yesterday at the inaugural Inclusive Sports Festival at Our Tampines Hub, he was part of the Runninghour group who took participants through a short blindfolded running experience.

Through that, people could have a brief taste of what it is like to live and exercise in the shoes of a blind person.

Tan said: "People can experience the challenges that we go through, while it is not that difficult, and have fun too.

"I think many people are still having the wrong perception of the blind. Just because they are holding a walking aid, it doesn't mean they are totally handicapped.

"The club is like a big family to me and I hope more people can join us to be part of this community."

The two-day festival features more than 10 sports tryouts, including wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, boccia and curling. It is open to the public.

Wheelchair tennis player Tricia Tay was heartened when she saw families and schools bringing their children, some of whom have special needs, to the event.

She said: "Sometimes, parents might not know how to integrate their children.

"So this is a way they can be exposed to sports."

One person who enjoyed himself trying out all the sports is Betrand Koh, an 11-year-old Lighthouse School pupil who was born deaf.

His mother, Fitri Handayani, 35, said: "He takes up swimming classes, but today, he can try out more sports."

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, the guest of honour at the festival, encouraged more people to take up sports.

After interacting with participants at the event, she said: "You see communities beginning to embrace sports, more parents bringing their children.

"They see the benefits of sports, not just in building physical wellness, but also in encouraging (them) to reach out and be sociable and emotionally strong as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'Changing views at inclusive sports fest'. Print Edition | Subscribe