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Onward: Darren's inclusive journey

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You never know the real story behind a person from social media until that first conversation is made. Having just passed his three month mark at SportSG, the new team lead for the Digital Operations Centre, Darren Ho, possesses a wide skill set picked up during his entrepreneurial days from the age of 15 to having to cope with a late diagnosis of ADHD, Tourette’s and Autism.

Darren hoDarren Ho. Photo: Joelle Chan

He was also once 150kg and now competes in multi-distance triathlons around the world, his most notable race being the only Asian in history to compete in the IronStar full distance triathlon (3.8km swim, 180 cycle and 42km run) over in Sochi, Russia. He also raises awareness for invisible disability regularly and wears the colours of the Disabled Peoples’ Association on his race kits.

Always smiling and joking in the office, it is hard to imagine that he was once on the brink of a complete breakdown in life, not understanding how to deal with meltdowns and sudden outbursts until his diagnosis.

“It would sometimes feel like the entire world was against me and all the walls were closing in. So I would lash out wildly and blindly at anything and everything. I’m just thankful that no one actually got hurt in the process.” Remarks Darren as he spoke about his dark days in loneliness.

“I’ll always be grateful to my support unit around me. My family and my wife who stood by the worst days to see me through to where I am today. Without them, things could have been very different.”

He took to reading and meditation to rediscover his peace while focusing on training harder for triathlons, something he had begun in 2016, three years into his weight loss regime.

Darren hoDarren trains regularly for triathlons. Photo: Joelle Chan

“Somewhere along the way, I started thinking that not being the best version of myself was ok and this led to me eventually becoming obese. I’m just glad that now I’m half the man I used to be” joked Darren as he spoke about his weight loss.

Warned about dying at a premature age, he still refused to heed the advice of doctors until he witnessed his uncle pass away for the very same reasons, which had left the family distraught and helpless at his side. He then knew that it was time for change and never looked back since his journey began in 2013.

“I think sport is a very powerful agent for change. It has proven time and again to be the driving force in many people to become better and as a society, to unite us as one when the going gets tough. For me, staying active and training keeps me going. It makes me feel alive and knowing that I can do all of these things truly enables me to find the best version of myself.”

Darren hoDarren continues to pay it forward and currently helps a small group of individuals who have started on their own journeys. Photo: Joelle Chan

In his spare time, Darren continues to pay it forward and currently helps a small group of individuals who have started on their own journeys. He doesn’t want to brand the group because it puts all sorts of pressure on people. Instead, he wants them to have fun, enjoy the process and just take it one step at a time.

“I think being able to help others is a real gift and it’s something that I have not done enough in the past. One of my best friends who is a cancer survivor and part of the group is now competing in triathlons while others come from a variety of backgrounds to completing half marathons and simply just getting back on their feet.”

He hopes to bring his lessons learnt as an entrepreneur to SportSG and to share them with his team members and beyond as he believes that learning is a life-long process.

For those who are familiar with the sports media scene, Darren’s previous venture, VOXSPORTS used to cover the local grassroots and community sports scene till its acquisition by a British broadcaster in 2015. But it is his failures that he wishes to share openly because Darren believes that only in falling do we understand how to keep moving forward regardless how insurmountable an obstacle may seem.

In using these same life lessons, he also spends his time with the DPA as a board member in discussing new ideas on how to nurture and build a more inclusive Singapore for the future as we enter a new era of growth and development.

“I strongly believe that only in sharing our mistakes and lessons learnt from the past can we help the next generation in moving forward and to include everyone regardless of disability in our decision making. This is why paying it forward is such an important concept for me. This is also why I coined my own moniker, Onward.”