“As you can see, my legs are not totally straight. I was born with a condition called rickets, and due to the lack of calcium, my bones were not strong when I was growing up. My legs simply gave in and became a bit bowed.
They say the sky’s the limit, but my physical limits had already been set for me when I was born with this body. My parents laid down all the facts of my condition, and I took it positively. Things happen to everyone, but it’s really about how you take matters into perspective.
Looking back at my childhood, I realise the ‘bullying’ I went through was just kids being kids. I wobble a bit when I walk, so some kids would walk in front of me and mimic that. They took it a bit too far, but they’re kids; they didn’t know any better.
I also had a brain tumour when I was nine. I was right-handed, but after I underwent surgery, I had trouble controlling my hand movements. I had to teach myself how to write and do other things with my left hand. It took me over a year to get back all of my motor skills.
The only way I was able to overcome everything I went through was with support from the people in my life. On top of that, I was a very stubborn kid. Everything an able-bodied person could do, I wanted to do even better. That competitiveness was always there in me.
In school, I played floorball, table tennis and even did Taekwondo. With the Para Games approaching, I also swam a lot when I injured my kneecap in May to keep myself fit. Taking it further, I participated in the National Inclusive Swimming Championships to stay competitive and won two gold medals.
I picked up football in primary school. I came from an all-boys school, so we’d skip meals during recess time to play. That was the first time I truly felt like I fit in. We were cooperating instead of poking fun at one another, and that’s why I fell in love with the game.
When I was 18, the coach of the national Cerebral Palsy (CP) Football team spotted me playing soccer at a basketball court. He asked me to try out for the team, and the rest is history. I’ve been a national athlete for three years now.
Preparations for the Para Games are going well, but it’s been challenging because I’m in my final year at Lasalle. I’d wake up at 9 to go to school, drop by the gym to do some cardio during lunchtime, go for football training at 5, then go home and do school work before I go to sleep.
That’s why every amount of support really helps. Athletes are humans too, and there are days when you wake up and you need something to push you. The messages that people show us really spur us on to do our nation proud at the ASEAN Para Games.
We want to go out there and show that sports unite people because it really does. We also want to touch the hearts of people with our perseverance, to prove a point that even if you’re disabled, almost anything is possible if you set your mind to it.” – Jeremiah Tan, 21
Interview by: Arman Shah