by Nicolette Mok
National wheelchair basketball player Choo Poh Choon opens up on his enduring passion for sports.
When asked what else he enjoyed besides playing sports, Team Singapore wheelchair basketball player Choo Poh Choon found it hard to stray away from his favourite topic: “I watch a lot of sports. I’m a big EPL (English Premier League) fan, and I watch a lot of rugby too.”
“I love to try new things, things that others might think are dangerous! I’ve tried scuba diving and skydiving. The next thing I want to try is bungee jumping. I quite like extreme sports.”
The 34-year-old’s love for keeping active could not have been more pronounced. Having been exposed to a variety of different activities while growing up, Poh Choon’s passion never once let up, even when an injury – sustained during his National Service days – necessitated his reliance on a wheelchair.
“I grew up playing with my cousins. We stayed in a flat with common corridors, and we always played football, catching, and other games there. When I went to school, I played football and basketball, and tried out many other sports,” expressed Poh Choon, who is set to make his ASEAN Para Games (APG) debut with the national wheelchair basketball team this year.
Despite playing wheelchair basketball for some 13 years now, chances to compete have been few and far between, so Poh Choon admitted to cherishing each one. Besides attaining a third-place finish at the Singapore Open in 2003, he has also played in a number of regional matches in Thailand – all while completing his studies, establishing his career as a human resources business analyst, and getting married.
Sharing his partiality towards team sports and why he chose to specialise in wheelchair basketball, the avid athlete said: “I’ve tried wheelchair tennis, but I prefer team sports. Wheelchair basketball is probably the only wheelchair team sport here. Besides, I’ve played basketball before and I followed the National Basketball Association (NBA) league while growing up. Picking up wheelchair basketball was a natural thing for me.”
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in a team. I feel that, if I’m alone, I can’t achieve much. If you ask me to run a marathon alone, I would give up very quickly. But if I were to do it in a team, it would be different because I wouldn’t want to let my teammates down,” he added.
However, as Poh Choon revealed, his teammates served as much more than just a form of motivation on the court. Having been there for him right from the very start, they had taught him “a lot about life”.
“I admire my team a lot. I was very lucky to have met them. When I started out, I was feeling very depressed about my injury. I had to adjust to so many different things – not just mobility issues, but also the stares that I got from strangers. They made me feel uneasy,” he expressed.
“But once I got to know my teammates, I began laughing at myself. Why did I even feel that way? They’re much older than I am; their lives were even harder back when the stigma was worse, and the technology and facilities available were limited. They gave me a different perspective, taught me how to be more independent, and showed me I could live a life more colourful than others,” he continued.
It is, then, no wonder that Poh Choon is working hard to ensure that this APG it will be a fitting tribute to his team, which comprises a number of mature players aged over 50. The diligent squad is currently training twice a week with additional gym and training sessions planned on top of that.
“This might just be our last APG together. I will still play leisurely, but if there are no new players coming in, I probably will have to give up playing competitively,” he acknowledged.
“I just hope that, after this APG, we can entice more players, especially younger ones, to come forward. They don’t have to play wheelchair basketball. There are many other para sports! I hope this APG will prove to be a milestone. That’s my biggest wish for now.”
Help fulfil Poh Choon’s dreams by spreading his love for sports and supporting him at the 8th ASEAN Para Games in Singapore from 3 to 9 December this year!