SINGAPORE: National long jumper, Suhairi Suhani, is aiming to win a medal for Singapore when he makes his debut at the upcoming Paralympic Games.
"I'm going there to break my personal best, and if I get a medal, wonderful for Singapore. Rio is the Paralympics. That is a higher stage now. My mentality needs to be strong. So I'm going there to stay positive, which is what my coach taught me in training," said Suhairi in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.
A spate of terrible fevers left the long jumper with a permanent intellectual disability when he was two. Despite this, he is determined to rise over the impairment: “I'm lower in studies, lower in IQ. I need more time to read, or to write, or to have conversations. But I never look down on myself. It is the same as mainstream people. I can do what I need to do."
The 19-year-old has been a long jumper for the past five years. He scored a silver for Singapore during the ASEAN Para Games in December 2015, while setting a personal best of 6.66 metres. In July 2016, he brought home silver once again, in a meet organised by the International Paralympic Committee in Berlin.
To prepare for Rio, Suhairi started training six times a week since December 2015, up from the usual four. He calls this crucial, given that he is coming up against competitors from countries like Croatia and Malaysia, whose athletes are pushing past the seven-metre mark.
Suhairi has been training six times a week since December 2015 in preparation for the upcoming Paralympics. (Photo: Nadia Jansen Hassan)
Suhairi believes in keeping active in other sports and activities as well. A student at Delta Senior School, he is also doing an internship at a local swim school. He hopes to become a swimming coach, grooming the next generation of young swimmers and sportsmen.
Said Suhairi: "I will tell my juniors or my athletes to train hard, never think of anything else, and stay focused."