Disabled or not, we are the same

Disabled or not, we are the same
From left: Former swimmer and now MMA fighter May Ooi, swimmer Amanda Lim and bowler Jasmine Yeong-Nathan posing with para swimmer Theresa Goh (front) for a photo.
PHOTO: Theresa Goh

Things almost always get crazier after I'm done racing for the day, than they are before competition.

Gone are the calm, nerves and tension before a race, replaced instead by a flurry of activity.

I need to wheel myself to the cool-down pool for a few easy laps, I'm wanted for tests at doping control, and in yesterday's case, I also needed to be at the victory ceremony and attend to media requests.

It feels like everyone wants a piece of me, so I was especially grateful to see three of my fellow Team Singapore team-mates patiently waiting outside the OCBC Aquatic Centre until I was done with all my obligations, to meet me and congratulate me in person on my 200m freestyle gold medal yesterday.

What makes it all the more special is that these people - swimmer Amanda Lim, bowler Jasmine Yeong-Nathan and mixed martial arts fighter and former swimmer May Ooi - are all able-bodied athletes.

In recent years, the camaraderie between para-athletes and our able-bodied counterparts has really blossomed.

Maybe it's because there are now a lot more events that we attend together, or maybe it's because we all frequent the Singapore Sports Institute often and always see each other there.

I'm particularly close to athletes like hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, bowler Shayna Ng, swimmer Amanda and canoeists like Sarah Chen and Stephenie Chen - but the circle is growing.

We enjoy cafe-hopping together to indulge in our favourite food and we also make it a point to mix up the group a bit to include athletes from other sports.

The bond I have with these people is special to my heart not just because we're all athletes, but also because I never feel like they see us para-athletes as any different from them.

They treat us as they would any of their able-bodied friends and not like we need any special treatment.

For that intangible gift of friendship, and for the very tangible congratulatory hugs I got yesterday, I am forever grateful.

This article was first published on December 7, 2015.
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