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Step By Step, Leow Rises to Silver Glory

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Zac Leow after his race [Photo by Suki Singh / Sports Singapore]

“Sometimes in life when you lose something, that’s when you know you really love it,” said Zac Leow, who was lying completely paralysed in bed just two years ago.

Zac had always been a runner, but he did not realise how precious the sport was to him until a fateful day in November 2013.

The 29-year-old was cycling to school when his bicycle’s front wheel got caught in a drain and he broke his spine as a result of the crash.

He was immediately fully paralysed - unable to even move a finger.

“That is when I knew I really, really loved running and I just wanted to be back doing what I loved,” the Team Singapore athlete said.

Doctors told him that he had a small chance of regaining the ability to walk, but running was beyond hope. 

Zac had a C1 Incomplete Spinal injury - the most severe of all spinal cord injuries - and according to his doctors, no C1 Incomplete Spinal patient has ever recovered well enough to run before.

Despite facing the prospect of being bedridden for the rest of his life and losing the ability to run again, Zac never once wallowed in the misery of his own situation.

A lesser person might have given up hope and let destiny play out its course but not Zac. The Sports Science student instead set out a clear and concise plan to regain control of his own body.

“I always set steps for myself. I was like ‘Alright, I am just going to get my finger to wriggle’. And after almost a week, I managed to wriggle one finger,” he said.

“So to me it was a good job. Now, let’s try the other hand. Then try to wriggle one more finger on the right hand or the right toe.”

“I was very goal driven and I set very realistic goals along the line. So I was really managing things well and that kept me going.” 

Step by step, he managed to get different parts of his body moving. It was a long and arduous task, but setting small and achievable goals helped him keep his eye on the end game.

“I wanted to run a marathon again, and I wanted to do it under three hours again just once.”

Soon, Zac was able to walk even though it took him 20 minutes to plod through a mere 500 metres. And just eight months after his unfortunate accident, he successfully completed a half-marathon, defying all odds.

On Sunday evening, again personifying the slogan that nothing is impossible, Zac clinched Singapore’s first APG medal in athletics as he finished second in the men’s 1500m (T37) event with a time of 5:44.49.

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