Team Singapore equestrian rider Gemma Rose Foo’s Rio dream was almost stolen from her.
On Easter Sunday, in March of this year, during training in Germany, her horse bolted, startled by a noise, and threw Gemma, who has cerebral palsy, to the floor. In hospital, it was discovered she had ruptured her spleen and blood was leaking into her abdomen.
She spent two days in intensive care and was told to stay off her horse for three months. Rio seemed a long, long way away.
But Gemma is used to defying expectations, finding the strength to overcome challenges and obstacles and bravely she managed to get herself back in condition to compete again.
On Thursday she was at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro, just outside Rio, competing in the Individual Championship Test Grade 1a competition alongside compatriot Laurentia Tan.
The results did not go the way that Team Singapore may have hoped for - with Laurentia, who won two bronzes in Beijing and a silver and a bronze in London, finishing 5th and Gemma placing 24th.
But after being embraced by families, supporters and staff following her test, Gemma was able to reflect on her achievement in even being able to compete on her horse Cassis Royal.
“I have been training less than a month for Rio so I am so glad I have been able to be here to compete with the world’s best,” she said.
“I am glad I managed to complete my test and do everything correctly especially at such a nice venue like this,” added Gemma, who competed in London as a 16-year-old.
TeamSG equestrienne Gemma Rose Foo in action. Photo: Sport Singapore
Early in her test, Gemma suffered some scary moments as a high gust of wind appeared to disturb her horse.
“During my ride the wind started blowing and after the accident I had, it kept flashing back at me. I was afraid something was going to happen, I was nervous.” she said.
But Gemma stuck at the task admirably, showing the skills and technique that will surely bring her greater success in the future.
Gemma watched team-mate Laurentia in action and spoke warmly of her respect for the experienced equestrian competitor.
“She is one of the people who inspired me to start this sport, she has been a role model and so inspiring to me,” she said.
The 20-year-old has plenty of time to follow in the footsteps of Laurentia and says she is aiming to compete in the World Equestrian Games in two years’ time and then the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
Despite her busy schedule of preparation and competition, Gemma has also found time to enjoy the company of other para-athletes from Team Singapore and enjoy the team spirit to the full.
“I watched my friend Pin Xiu win her gold in the swimming and I’ve been speaking a lot to my fellow athletes and they are all equally excited to be here.
“We have really bonded together as Team Singapore in our love for our country and love for our sport,” she said.
Pledge your support for our TeamSG athletes now!