We caught up with SPD Aspiration Award 2015 winner Gregory Ong, a handcyclist who is training rigorously in the hopes of being selected to represent Singapore at the Paralympics one day. We got to witness first hand and find out more about his training regime at one of his sessions.
What started out as a sport to keep him active as a wheelchair-user is now the driving force and reason 15-year-old Gregory Ong wakes up to every day.
Gregory was diagnosed with cerebral palsy since young and the condition affects the movements in his limbs, especially his legs, and causes him to slur when he speaks. He started handcycling three years ago and has not allowed the effects of cerebral palsy to stop him from excelling in the sport. Gregory dreams of being selected to represent Singapore in handcycling at the Paralympics one day and is training very hard for it.
When we met Gregory at his weekly training routine with the Handcycling Association of Singapore (HAS) at ITE College East on 9 May, he came across as a soft-spoken and reserved young man. His parents, on the other hand, were warm and chatty whereas his younger brother played the supportive sibling, not uttering a single complaint about spending his weekend watching his older brother train. It was heartening to see this strong family bond supporting Gregory’s dream of representing his country.
A different side of Gregory emerged once he was at the trackside. The handcycling bronze medallist at last year’s National Disability League exuded an air of quiet confidence once he geared up in his training attire and got on his handcycle. After some stretching and warm-up exercises, he sped off with his teammates.
Despite the scorching afternoon sun, Gregory completed every lap in a disciplined, focused and determined fashion. Gregory’s father, Mr Leon Ong, was always ready to hand him water to keep him hydrated at every break during the three-hour training.
Gregory has shown much improvement since he first joined the HAS. On his approach to the sport, Mr Foo Fung-Liang, HAS President, said: “Gregory tries hard during training and is responsive to instructions. He has progressed from being able to handcycle only three to four laps around the stadium track, which adds up to about 1.6km, to quite easily 12km to 13km now. Greg is still young and has some hard work ahead, but I believe he is up to it. I am pleased with Gregory’s progress and I look forward to see more improvement from him soon.”
His parents have made considerable efforts to help him realise his full potential in the sport by signing him up for horse-riding lessons with the Riding for the Disabled Association of Singapore to improve his seating posture. He also attends monthly therapy at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital to increase strength, flexibility and endurance. Gregory plays his part by wheeling himself to and from school daily, and stays committed to his training, actively participating in races to improve his competitiveness and skills.
Mr Ong revealed that the hardest part of Gregory’s training was getting onto the handcycle from the wheelchair. “Many people would expect him to lament about the gruelling and repetitive routine but Gregory simply loves the sport so much that he doesn’t complain at all,” he said.
This was echoed by the junior team coach Mr Roger Winder who said: “Gregory always has a smile ready during training no matter how tired he is. Quietly charming and positive, he is delightful to work with.”
According to Gregory’s mother Mdm Elizabeth Chin, winning the SPD Youth Aspiration Award was definitely of great help in Gregory’s quest to race in the Paralympics. The money from the award would go towards acquiring equipment that would help improve his physical and cardiovascular strength, as well as compression gear to help reduce muscle sore and speed up muscle repair.
Having witnessed Gregory’s enthusiasm for the sport and his family’s unwavering support, we are glad to have helped bring Gregory a step closer to his Paralympics dream. You can catch a glimpse of his training in the video below or this link.
Here’s wishing Gregory all the best!
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