by Nicolette Mok
Mu Yuguang hopes to raise the profile on para sports.
Look up Mu Yuguang online and the search engine will yield several links to his work in academia. After all, the 45-year-old holds the distinguished title of Associate Professor at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Yet, nestled among the science-related information are updates on his other career as a national para table tennis representative.
While Yuguang isn’t a professional player, inducted into elite competitive sports rather late in life, he is determined to make good his sporting endeavours, and harbours dreams of playing at the Paralympics one day.
Starting out as a recreational enthusiast as a child, the Class Seven player darts around the table nimbly with the aid of a prosthetic leg. Despite only joining the Table Tennis Association for the Disabled (Singapore) (TTADS) in 2012, the talented sportsperson has already managed to accumulate a number of accolades, including a spot at the prestigious 2014 Asian Para Games and a team bronze medal at the 7th ASEAN Para Games (APG).
The affable paddler credits his NTU colleagues, family, and the volunteers and coaches at the TTADS for helping him to juggle both academia and sport.
“Teaching and research in NTU keeps me very busy. So I can only train in my spare time in the evening. But I love the sport. I enjoy it a lot. Of course, time is limited, but my work and sporting commitments complement each other,” explains Yuguang.
“Sports is a necessary part of my life.”
Indeed, the professor is so determined to improve his game that he trains not just with the TTADS, but also during his free time at NTU.
“We need a lot of practice. Although we weren’t very good at last year’s ASEAN Para Games, we still managed to get bronze medals. I think it was very exciting. At the moment, I can see that my losses are more than my wins. But even then, I am continually improving, despite not being a full-time athlete,” he shared.
“I think I need to improve my skills and change my mind set. And then maybe I will have a chance to compete in the Paralympics!”
Personal glory aside, Yuguang hopes his achievements will help the local para sports scene in its community engagement efforts. Displaying the innate educator in him, he is keen on leading by example: “I hope that my achievements will raise the profile of para sports in Singapore. We’ve not had a para table tennis player in the Paralympics in the last decade. We need to try hard.”
In fact, the passionate para athlete would also like the public to learn more about his sporting discipline, and show that people with disabilities can perform well in physical activities too.
“I’m playing in the standing class; its exactly like how able-bodied people play. The table, rules, and movements are the same. This is why we can play with able-bodied people too. Some of the players with disabilities are even better than able-bodied people,” he expressed.
“Through our own efforts, we can prove to Singaporeans that we can do it. We want to let more people know that people with disabilities can play sports as well.”
Support Yuguang in his quest for table tennis excellence at the 8th ASEAN Para Games this year in Singapore, from 3 to 9 December!