Aaron Yeo celebrates [Photo by Sport Singapore / Action Images via Reuters]
Nine years ago, Aaron Yeo broke his neck in a motorcycle accident on the way home from work and was paralysed chest down.
On Saturday he won a gold medal in his first-ever ASEAN Para Games after a four game thriller against Thailand.
Yeo was part of a four man team, which includes Jason Chee, Eric Ting and Darren Chua and which stormed their way to the nation’s first table tennis gold after beating Thailand 3-1 in the men's team (T1-2) event.
Singapore was level with Thailand after one win and one loss in the first two single matches, but hopes looked bleak when they went 5-1 down early in the third match.
Despite that, they held on and never lost hope.
“In my experience, never give up. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” Yeo said.
And when the fat lady did sing, doubles pair Aaron Yeo and Jason Chee recovered magnificently with a 11-9 victory in the third match.
Former Navy regular Chee went on to win the fourth match and secured the gold medal for Singapore.
The team’s hard work and grit was no doubt crucial in the win, but Yeo said the rambunctious fans in OCBC Arena deserved credit as well.
Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann celebrates with crowd after Team Singapore's win
[Photo by Sport Singapore / Action Images via Reuters]
“The crowd is amazing. They are so supportive. Every point we win, they cheer for us and that really motivates us to work harder,” he said.
Having been training for only less than 10 months, winning a gold medal in the regional competition came as a surprise to the 36-year-old.
“All that was on my mind was to play my best. That’s all,” he said. “Whatever the results, as long as I played my best, I am happy.”
While Yeo has played table tennis recreationally as a child, he had never expected to represent Singapore in a regional competition one day. After his accident, that thought could not be further from his mind.
“When I was introduced to sport, I was thinking ‘I cannot even hold the bat. How can I play table tennis?’” said the APG debutant.
“But when I went down, they strapped the band around my hand and I started hitting the ball. It brought back a lot of childhood memories and I just fell in love with the sport immediately.”
People with disabilities are encouraged to engage in sports as a form of exercise and therapy, but for Yeo, his entire life now revolves around table tennis.
“I think about it every day the moment I wake up. I have something to look forward to. All I think about is playing table tennis.”