Norsilawati Binte Sa’at might have a tranquil demeanour at the Changi International Airport before boarding her plane to Rio, but underneath that is a ferocious fighting spirit.
This same spirit has enabled her to overcome early setbacks in her wheelchair racing career, which included missing out on the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Paralympics as well as last year’s 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG).
The remaining TeamSG Paralympics contingent (archery, athletics and sailing) heading off to Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Sport Singapore
The 39-year-old was disappointed in missing out on the APG due to a lack of participants in her event but took it in her stride. “I told myself to move on. I was not able to (race in front of family and friends) but I was telling myself it’s just a stumble in life," she said.
This ability to overcome obstacles in her way has propelled this wheelchair sprinter, who lost the use of her legs in a car accident, to qualify for her first Paralympics with an ‘A’ qualification for the T52 Women’s 100m.
“I was dumbfounded when I found out that my timing made the ‘A’ qualification. Once my qualification was confirmed, I was ecstatic,” said Norsilawati, or Sila as she is known to her friends.
TeamSG wheelchair sprinter, Norsilawati, with her support system at the airport. Photo: Sport Singapore
Although she bears the weight of heavy expectations, Sila tells herself not to worry about the result. “The more you think about the result, the more pressure you will feel. As long as you follow the process, the result will take care of itself.”
Her work on the track and in the gym in the lead up to Rio has improved both her explosive power and endurance - a balance of which is needed in her event.
Training with the Wheelchair Racing Association also serves as her inspiration. “My teammates inspire me. The people I train with right now, they are committed to training and they want to be the best in their sport even though some of them have just started out.”
“I am so proud to be given this opportunity to represent Singapore after trying out for so long to qualify. The Paralympics is the pinnacle of my sport and I am very proud to be able to represent Singapore.”
Get to know Sila and Diroy and the trials and tribulations they went through to get to Rio 2016.
Despite the weight of a country's hopes on her shoulders, she is not going to let any expectations hamper her performance.
She will be focusing on no one but herself as she steps onto the world's biggest stage for the para sport in a week's time.
“Just want to do my best, to give my all and experience what the Paralympics is like because this is my first," she said.
"I want to do my best on the international stage.”
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