Sport gives him new sense of purpose

Just 18 months after a devastating road accident, Singaporean Robert Fuchs struck gold at the recent ASEAN Para Games (APG).

And a week after that sweet victory, the 40-year-old para-archer was still over the moon from his recent success.

"It's like a dream that I don't want to wake up from. I'm proud, happy, somewhat confused and still in shock," Mr Fuchs told The New Paper in an interview at his HDB flat in Bedok last week.

He was among the 18 para-athletes who bagged a record 24 gold medals at the APG, which ended on Dec 9. 

But his achievement did not come easy, and life was not always smooth-sailing for Mr Fuchs, who was born in Romania and has been living in Singapore since 2005.

He and his wife became citizens in April last year because they feel at home here.

"Our daughter was studying here, and we have no intention of moving and living somewhere else," he said.

Two months after becoming a citizen, Mr Fuchs was on his way to Parkway Parade to pay his phone bills when the Harley-Davidson motorcycle he was riding collided with a car at the junction of Telok Kurau Road and East Coast Road.

The June 10 accident crushed his left leg - he said it was "smashed and the nerves and tendons… felt tangled".

Doctors amputated part of his left leg, from the knee down, in a two-hour operation later that day.

It was a massive blow to Mr Fuchs, who said he always prided himself in leading an active lifestyle.

"I never went into depression, but I would be lying if I said I never felt down over the next two months.

"I worried about how I was going to lead my life, whether I was going to be a burden to my family, and I was even worried my wife Cristina would leave me," he said.

But his family's positive reaction lifted his spirits.

His daughter Annemarie, now 10, told him he would still be able to walk with her.

"My wife also never gave up on me. She stayed with me and kept me going."

The operations manager at French telco Alcatel-Lucent also thanked his employers for standing by him.

SUPPORT

He said his colleagues from the human resources department rushed down as soon as they got wind of his accident.

"There was one occasion when 40 of my colleagues came to visit me - only for my wife to kick them out because she wanted me to remain in a sterile environment after the operation.

"So they were stuck outside my ward with pizza, beer and Pepsi. It was like some kind of party," he said with a chuckle.

He also said that he even requested to go back to work early - first on a wheelchair, later on crutches - because he was not used to idling at home.

In October last year, he got fitted with a prosthetic leg at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he met national para-archer Desmond Tong, who is a prosthetist there.

"I later saw on his Facebook page that he had posted a picture about archery. I commented that I'd never tried it and he replied, asking me to drop by to let the coach see me."

In November last year, Mr Fuchs took aim with a bow and arrow for the first time.

The results, however, were horrendous, he said, referring TNP to a video on his Facebook page that showed him dropping the bow and wearing a shocked look on his face.

But as the sport gave him a new sense of interest and purpose, Mr Fuchs persevered.

"I liked shooting (even before the accident). I used to go to the Singapore Gun Club and fire rifles. So I thought archery was kind of similar," he said.

He attended two-hour training sessions three times a week before he was carded early this year.

He eventually became one of just two male archers selected to compete in the APG.

"Of course it wasn't easy. There were times where I felt I was plateauing. I just worked harder and also listened to my coaches' advice. They really helped a lot," he said.

He also said he had to sacrifice time with his family as he trained six times a week ahead of the APG.

"It was hard. Sometimes by the time I got home, my daughter would be asleep. And by the time I got up, she's already off to school."

His dedication to the sport paid off when he reached the quarter-finals at the World Archery Asia Para Championships in Thailand, a few weeks before the APG.

On Dec 6, he and teammate Syahidah Alim beat the Malaysian team 147-144 for the gold in the APG mixed team compound final.

"I was shaking during the final. My whole body was all shaking.

"But a rival coach told me that if I wasn't shaking, I wasn't human."

Mr Fuchs said a medal was never his target for the Games.

"It was a bonus. All I had hoped to do was make more Singaporeans aware of disabled sports and give more recognition to it."

Did that work?

"I have people coming up to me outside my HDB flat, at the multi-storey carpark, to congratulate me," he said with a smile.

He also said the accident made him treasure his life and family more.

"I wouldn't call it a blessing. But it brought my family and I closer together. It also made me realise that only after we lose something, that we value what we have even more."

For now, it's payback time, he said.

"I've spent too much time away from my family. It's time to be with them and pay them back for all the support and love they've given me."

Daughter's words gave him hope

Just days after his leg had to be amputated, Mr Robert Fuchs' daughter managed to lift his spirits when she first visited him.

Mr Fuchs and his wife Cristina had kept the accident from their only daughter, Annemarie, now 10, for a few days.

"We sent her for sleepovers at her friend's place. We didn't know how to break the news to her," he said.

But their worries that Annemarie would be too horrified by Mr Fuchs' injury turned out to be unfounded.

"The first time she visited me in hospital, three or four days later - I think my wife had already told her everything by then - she asked me to show her my leg," he said.

Mr Fuchs reluctantly lifted the blanket to show his heavily bandaged left leg.

He said: "All Annemarie said was: 'It's only a small part that's missing. Don't worry, you will still be able to walk with me'.

"That's the beauty of a child. She never saw the negatives, only the positive side. Her words lifted me and gave me hope.

Annemarie told The New Paper that she is very proud of her father.

"He worked really hard and even if he (had not) come back (from the ASEAN Para Games) with anything, I would have been very proud of him.

"He's my hero."


This article was first published on December 21, 2015.
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