by Nicolette Mok
National shooter Aishah Samad lets us in on her thriving new life and unwavering passion.
With a futuristic set of prosthetics, opportunities to compete internationally, renewed purpose, and even a new relationship, Aishah Samad has certainly settled into a brand new life.
But the 43-year-old shooting coach and Team Singapore para shooter will have you know that she’s still the Aishah of old. While a traumatic incident in 2012 heralded a new chapter in her life, her talent and spirit was undiminished, as with her love for shooting.
A former SEA Games medallist, Aishah embarked on the sport as an able-bodied auxiliary police officer and motorcycling enthusiast. However, a life-threatening infection that turned gangrenous developed while on holiday in China, and cost the avid sportsperson all four of her limbs.
She eventually recovered, but not without having to adapt to an entirely different lifestyle. Revealing the everyday minutiae that she struggled with, she said: “I learnt how to use my phone, to drink, to eat finger food – even though I have no fingers! I learnt to endure pain. It’s a whole new life.”
Yet, Aishah persevered, started giving inspirational talks, and returned to her passion. This time, though, she entered the sport as a rookie para shooter, equipped with bionic hands and a new perspective to life.
“Even before I got sick, I had already planned to return to competitive shooting. I had stopped for a few years, but I was still coaching. I knew that I still wanted to shoot, and I didn’t want the amputation to stop me,” she shared, adding that the local shooting community had raised funds for her bionic hands.
“There’s a very big difference between para and regular shooting. After my amputation, I wanted to go straight back into shooting. I didn’t think that it was going to be difficult because I was a national shooter before. But after my amputation, shooting again for the first time brought me close to tears; it was so difficult! The bionic hands had to be adjusted frequently; they aren’t flexible. I even broke a few triggers because I couldn’t control them,” she continued.
Aishah subsequently found out that bionic hands were not permissible in para shooting competitions, and had to have her shooting spectacles modified into an extension trigger.
Undeterred, she continued training, motivated by support from her coach and loved ones. Within the short span of three years, she made the cut for the 2014 Asian Para Games and also participated in a number of International Paralympic Committee Shooting World Cups.
She noted: “When I was an able-bodied shooter, I participated mostly on a Southeast Asian level. But since I got started on para shooting, I’ve been to European countries like Croatia. If you’re talking about other things in general, I’ve also been given the opportunity to meet more people, even those seeking my help. I have a new purpose in life now.”
“So I’d say that I’m very blessed. Even though God took a little bit away from me, he gave me a lot more in life. In fact, I had been a single parent for 11 years. After my amputation, I actually met someone!” she added.
Presently, the dedicated athlete is working hard not just for the 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG), but also to win her ticket to next year’s Paralympics. Relating her quest for excellence, she quipped: “I don’t want much; I just want a gold medal at the APG! I want Team Singapore to perform the best that we can. We’re training very hard.”
Personal ambition aside, Aishah also harbours great aspirations for the local para sports community and hopes to inspire others to pick up sports, in spite their physical challenges.
“When I went to Europe for competitions, I saw the level of acceptance for para sports. I felt so happy for them and I hope to see a lot more of such instances in Singapore,” she remarked.
“Some day, I’d like to pass by an open field, or anywhere, and see persons of disabilities playing sports.”
Will Singapore be able to fulfil this vision? Begin by supporting Aishah and the rest of our very own athletes at the 8th ASEAN Para Games from 3 to 9 December this year!