1. How did you get into the sport?
I actually started swimming when I was five years old. It started off as a family activity. My brothers were learning how to swim and I asked my mom if I could learn together with my brothers. She asked the coach who then agreed to take me on. That was how I started when I was five. I love the water, the sense of freedom that I had. I could do anything that everybody else could do and I loved it. At that point in time, I already had a disability, but I could still walk.
I only started to be on a wheelchair when I was around 13 years old. I was still going to swim every weekend with my brothers. Then I was spotted by a volunteer from the Singapore Disability Sports Council and he invited me to join training at a higher level. So that was the start of my competitive journey, when I was around like 12-13 years old.
2. Which athletic achievement are you most proud of?
That would probably be my gold medals from the Paralympic Games, one from Beijing and the second one in Rio. They were both really different. The first gold was just special because it was the first one and the second one still really, really special, knowing that after so many years of trying and trying, I could be back on top once again.
Other than my achievements in the pool, I’m also very proud of my achievements out of the pool. Like my advocacy work, being a voice to speak up for issues such as equality and the social impact that I have made and can still make.
3. What is the biggest struggle about having muscular dystrophy?
The biggest struggle about having Charcot-Marie-Tooth, I no longer view it as such as I have adapted along the way. At the end of the day, I think it’s perspective, isn’t it? If I think that any struggle I have is a very big struggle, then I’ll start to think that it’s a big struggle and feel sad about it. So I choose to take things in my own stride and not think that I have a big struggle.
4. What has kept you going despite the tough days you have had?
I want to be better than I am. So really, progress is the thing that motivates me even after 17 years of swimming competitively. Just wanting to be better than I was last month, last year.
5. How have you raised awareness for disability sports in Singapore?
Firstly, by winning. When you win, you raise awareness. But then it doesn’t just end there. For me, it’s also about speaking up further, and trying to tell people that disability does not disqualify. And at the end of the day, I think I have raised awareness for more than just disability sports. I have spoken up for women, for Singaporeans to be more active, for sports in general and various different things.
6. What would you tell someone who is struggling now?
I think it’s important for people to have a community, to have a network, to have a support system where you can talk to your friends. And if you don’t, then maybe it’s important for you to go out there now and take a step, just take a small step and to start living life the way you want to. Take a small step in the direction of finding your community, take a small step in doing something that you want to do every single day. It starts with small steps.
7. What does thriving mean to me?
Thriving to me means having a goal, doing things you can to reach the goal and being happy in the process of doing so.