Swimmers champion social initiatives

Joseph Schooling test driving the electric-powered Toyota i-Road at the "Start Your Impossible" initiative launch at Infinite Studios yesterday. The zero-emission mobility device is one example of Toyota's solutions at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympi
Joseph Schooling test driving the electric-powered Toyota i-Road at the "Start Your Impossible" initiative launch at Infinite Studios yesterday. The zero-emission mobility device is one example of Toyota's solutions at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Schooling, Toh partnering Toyota in projects that inspire people to challenge their limits

Joseph Schooling remembers witnessing a road accident many years ago when the pillion rider of a motorcycle was flung into the air after a collision with a car.

This is why the Olympic champion is embarking on a project advocating road safety, as part of Toyota's first global corporate initiative called "Start Your Impossible" which celebrates the Olympic and Paralympic spirit.

Schooling and fellow swimmer Toh Wei Soong were yesterday named as "Start Your Impossible" hero athletes by Toyota and Borneo Motors (Singapore) at Infinite Studios.

Inspired by Toyota's worldwide partnership with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, it also marks Toyota's support of the creation of a more sustainable, inclusive and mobile society.

Schooling and Toh are two of the 12 Olympic and Paralympic aspirants from Asia who are partnering Toyota. Both will support the initiative by championing their hero projects, called "Equality of Opportunity" (Toh) and "Road Safety" (Schooling).

Recalling the road accident, Schooling, 23, said: "Things like that happen every day but, when you see it for yourself, it kind of hits you... when Toyota approached me and wanted me to champion their road safety programme, obviously it was a very easy decision.

"You want to try to do your part just to help make things better and minimise accidents happening... I'm very excited to undertake this."

Schooling, who revealed yesterday that he would be back in Singapore permanently from February next year after completing his final semester as an economics undergraduate at the University of Texas, Austin, will partner ComfortDelGro Driving Centre to help drivers hone their skills and improve the handling of road situations through the centre's Drive Safe courses.

He will also work with the Singapore Road Safety Council and the Traffic Police to raise awareness of road safety among children.

The 20-year-old Toh, an Asean Para Games champion and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, will work with the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) as one of the motivational speakers in the latter's ongoing schools outreach programmes. These aim to inspire the young, especially those with impairments, to pursue their sporting dreams.

Speaking via a video conference from Phuket, Thailand, where he is training for next month's Asian Para Games, he said: "I think there's a lot we can do to help better the lives of people with disabilities not just in the sports arena, but also in the workplace and everyday life.

"You have to have someone who understands the needs of people with disabilities. It's a very personal thing to me... there's a lot that needs to be done, and that's my project."

More details about the projects will be unveiled at a later date.

Borneo Motors (Singapore) managing director Jasmmine Wong said both athletes were natural choices to be part of the project as they are considered heroes in the Singapore sports scene. She added: "We hope that their dedicated examples will motivate others to challenge their own 'impossible', whether at work, in school or at play."

The company has also forged a partnership with the Singapore National Olympic Council and the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) to be their official mobility partner, providing support during their local events including the 2019 Olympic Day and Singapore Sports Awards.

In addition, Toyota and Borneo Motors will also be working with the SNPC to engage para-athletes as full-time employees.

Said SNPC chairman and SDSC president Kevin Wong: "It's a different kind of sponsorship where the sponsors really want to help not just in terms of cash, but they (also) want to make a difference at the ground level.

"We are very fortunate that we have two big companies coming forward and we are very appreciative."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2018, with the headline 'Swimmers champion social initiatives'. Print Edition | Subscribe