Working hard to beat the odds

Working hard to beat the odds

Watching shooting guard Ng Han Bin play on court, it would be easy for fans to identify him as a key member of the Singapore Slingers and the national men's team.

But few would know that the 26-year-old basketballer copes every day with the hectic and demanding schedule of a full-time athlete - with just one kidney.

Diagnosed with a malfunctioning kidney after suffering from chronic fevers, doctors had advised Ng at age 13 to give up contact sports.

He persisted, working as hard as at managing his health off court as he does on it, going on to be a part of the team who won a bronze at the 2013 SEA Games, Singapore's first men's team medal since 1979.

"Over the years, I just learnt how to be careful and just try to protect myself," he said.

The basketballer was one of about 25 athletes at the Sports Hub Library yesterday for the launch of a book commissioned by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), ahead of the SEA Games on home soil in June and 50 years of independence.

Titled 50est: Stirring Stories For The Singapore Soul, it compiles profiles of 50 past and present athletes, depicting how they overcame personal trials in their road to sporting excellence.

For sprinter and 2012 Olympian Gary Yeo, his was a story of working to becoming one of Singapore's fastest men despite a humble background.

Lacking natural talent at a young age, he was also often overlooked on the track before making up for it with his work ethic.

Said the 28-year-old: "I hope that people who read this can see that there are a few ways to go about accomplishing your aims in life. I took very long, but it was worth it.

"Hopefully I can inspire people to start looking at sports as a career option. At the end of the day, it's about fighting the good fight. And it feels so much better when you succeed."

It is precisely tales like these that the SNOC sought to tell and use to inspire when it began work on the book after the 2011 SEA Games, said Minister for Manpower, and Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin at the launch ceremony yesterday.

While Singapore sport has taken great leaps forward and made marked progress on the international stage, Mr Tan, who is also SNOC president, said each triumph is often accompanied by stories of toil, off the sporting arena that go untold.

He also penned a tribute in the book, writing about how sports serves as a unique platform that helps to nurture life values in athletes.

Drawing from his own involvement in sports like cycling and canoeing and his role as head of SNOC, he noted the many stories that accompany each sporting triumph and even setback.

"More significant than their triumphs must be be the way they overcame all kinds of odds to fulfil their dreams. Indeed, for these athletes and others like them, every win is a testimony of not just their skills but also their resilience and fighting spirit," he wrote.

Mr Tan added yesterday: "We celebrate our athletes when we read about them, when they win, but what we don't see is the human side... we don't realise it's such a long pathway to success."

Above that, he also hopes that these inspiring tales will serve as a good platform for rallying Singaporeans together.

He said: "Athletes are the heart of sports, people are the heart of our nation. Everyone can make a difference to help build a better society to live in.

"My aspiration is that Singaporeans... when discovering our athletes' stories, also discover their own purpose and pursuit for a meaningful life."

This article was first published on April 18, 2015.
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