by Alison Chin
Being born with a disability was not enough to stop Team Singapore goalball player Kelvin Tan from leading an active life.
If it were up to Team Singapore goalball player Kelvin Tan, a para athlete would be very much less of a curiosity.
“I would prefer people to treat me as a person, who although might be visually impaired, but is still interested in sports,” he explained.
The 33-year old could certainly be the right man to emphasize the integration of sport into the lives of persons with disabilities, having participated in running, bowling and soundball at different phases of his life.
To Kelvin, who was born visually impaired due to Leber’s congenital amaurosis, it was clear that those afflicted with a disability enjoyed sports in a manner no different from the rest of population.
“Regardless of whether you are a para athlete, a normal athlete or an elite athlete, everyone has their own ability and disability. It just so happens that I’m blind, and people focus on that, so when I play a sport, I become a para athlete in a para games. But if I swim, should I still be considered a para athlete? Swimming has nothing to do with seeing,” he pointed out.
“I don’t wish for people to fawn over the fact that I can do sports despite being visually-impaired. Everybody has a disability in my opinion, because everybody has a weakness. Some people have a very bad sense of direction, and I could end up leading a sighted person to a place. Who would be the disabled one in that case? I don’t see myself as a big deal because I just do it in a slightly different way from the rest of you, like how I have to run with somebody or play goalball.”
Training three times a week alongside the rest of the national goalball set-up, Kelvin revealed that the time and energy spent on improving his skills was not just an ideal way of relieving stress, but also helped him “feel good and happier”.
Goalball, a sport created specifically for the visually impaired, has only recently found its feet in the local para sports scene, but that hasn’t stopped the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) from making plans to field a male and female team in the upcoming 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG).
“The first time I was exposed to it [goalball], I was only in secondary school. I played it in a set-up that was not proper. I liked it. I was already taking part in many individual sports, so I thought a team sport was something worth trying,” Kelvin shared.
“We [the Singapore goalball team] are new and have only been playing for a couple of months. Other teams have been playing for more than 10 years. But, to me, having the opportunity to play against such experienced teams is a good thing.”
Kelvin, like many of his fellow national para athletes, is hoping for the APG to leave a lasting impact on Singaporeans and open doors for other persons with disabilities to participate in sports.
“Sports has nothing to do with your condition, [because] whatever you suffer from, you can do some form of sport,” he stated.
“I don’t see myself as a role model, but I just hope people don’t use their disability as an excuse to not move or do anything. Whatever disability you have, there is always a way to accomplish what you want to do in life.”
Support our male and female goalball teams during their 8th ASEAN Para Games in Singapore from 3rd to 9th December 2015!