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'The heart of a lion': Singapore youngster claws back from injury to win Special Olympics gold

'The heart of a lion': Singapore youngster claws back from injury to win Special Olympics gold

Jacob Wong (right) with coach Noor Hanif Sulaimee. (Photo: Special Olympics Singapore)

ABU DHABI: A day before his Special Olympics debut, an injury denied 14-year-old Jacob Wong the opportunity to take to the track.

"We were having a weather acclimatisation training session to get them used to the weather and Jacob slipped and fell on his right thigh," recalled coach Noor Hanif Sulaimee. "He was very disappointed to miss his 200m race. We explained to him after he recovers, he will be able to come back stronger for his two other races."

And come back stronger was exactly what Jacob did.

On a day when team Singapore's sprinters and bowlers stole the show with one gold, one silver and two bronzes, the youngster was the headline act.

Jacob clocked a time of 14.05 sec to finish first in the M3 division of the 100m on Tuesday (Mar 19).

"Saying (I'm) proud would be an understatement seeing how he performed today," said Hanif. "Not just how he performed but the courage and confidence he had coming after an injury to put in one of his best performance is very inspiring to me. This kid has a heart of a lion!"

Added Jacob: "I was very excited to run today in the 100m. After watching my other teammates run, I also could not wait to run."

Jacob is the third of Singapore's sprinters to win a gold medal at the Special Olympics, after 15-year-old Nurshalini Sahnef claimed the country's first gold in the 200m F2 division on Saturday and 16-year-old Maveric Lee in the 200m M8 division on Sunday.

In the 400m F3 division, Priyadashani Jeyabalan took home a bronze with a time of 1:31.34.

The Special Olympics World Games, held from Mar 14 to Mar 21, is a meet for athletes with intellectual disabilities, and this year marks Singapore’s 10th year of participation.

At least 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations will feature in this edition, the largest number of participants in the event’s history.

At the Special Olympics, athletes are separated into different divisions based on factors such as their age, gender as well as level of ability.

Over at the lanes, Singapore's bowlers added a silver and a bronze on their final day of competition.

Sarhan Zuhir (right) and Beh Jian Kai pose with their medals. (Photo: Special Olympics Singapore)

In the men's doubles D12 division, Sarhan Zuhir and Beh Jian Kai notched 961 pinfalls to finish second behind Australia's Grant Stephen Francis and Jason Holley.

"The boys did fantastic today. This was by far their best performance of the tournament. I am proud of them as they played well in a tough division," said coach Adam Lim.

"Over the last few days, the boys really felt the pressure and it affected their performance a bit. Today they really kept themselves calm and were able to deliver their best."

The duo of Siti Nurhamizah Hamzah and Assekin Mohamed Anuar also clinched bronze in the women's doubles D7 division.

"I think it has been a wonderful experience (for the team)," added Lim. "Being their first time competing at this level, it's really wonderful to see them bring home some medals. They really worked very hard for it and I hope the experience will make them much better bowlers down the line."

Singapore's total medal tally at the Special Olympics currently stands at four gold, four silver and seven bronze. 

Source: CNA/mt(mn)

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