The Jump to Podium: Suhairi bin Suhani
06 September 2017
Nur Ilham Ismail
After narrowly missing on a podium finish in the 2013 ASEAN Para Games, Suhairi told himself that the next time he steps foot in the competition, he will finish with a medal in hand. Suhairi was just a budding 16-year-old para-athlete at the time of his regional debut but even at such an early stage in his career he had already shown the mark of a true sportsman.
“I did not do well at the 7th ASEAN Para Games in Myanmar. So, upon returning home, I told both of my coaches that I want to train hard for the 8th Asean Para Games in 2015, as it will be held in Singapore. I told them that I just want to stand on the podium, regardless of the medal won.”
Having set the bar high for himself and letting his coaches know of his aspiration, Suhairi began to embark on a journey in getting himself in top form for the 2015 ASEAN Para Games. To help Suhairi achieve his goal, his coaches put him on an intensive training regime that saw him training every day to better his technique and strengthen his physique.
Returning to the competition fully prepared this time, Suhairi stepped onto the tracks at the National Stadium with a new-found confidence. With a spring in his stride and fire in his heart, the then 18-year-old Suhairi made the jump to a then personal best of 6.66 metres, clinching the silver medal in the men's long jump F20 final.
The result spurred Suhairi to train even harder – readying himself for the next stage of competition which is at the Asian level. But for now, KL is in his sights, and a place on the podium is once again Suhairi's goal as he sets to cement himself as one of the top long jumpers of Southeast Asia.
Able and willing to excel
In his capacity as a national Track and Field athlete, Suhairi hopes to do more than just win medals in the long jump or sprinting events. He has a bigger goal in mind which spans further than the sporting sphere — to change the public’s perception towards people with intellectual disabilities.
His journey began when a fever during his childhood brought a drastic change to his life. Upon recovering from the illness, he discovered that he had difficulties concentrating and learning in school. Subsequently, an IQ test confirmed his intellectual impairment. As he struggled to keep up with his peers in primary school, his family was advised to enroll him in a school run by the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN).
#ICYMI: Check out Suhairi's canvas on Facebook (only on mobile)
Currently, Suhairi is a student in Delta Senior School (DSS), a post-secondary institution within APSN, where he is undergoing vocational training in Food and Beverage. As a special needs student, he explains that he has personally experienced discrimination, especially by students from mainstream schools.
“The mainstream (students) do not know much about us, so they will always talk bad about us. They always look down on us. When Delta students walk past us, they will say that we have low IQ.”
Undeterred by the negative remarks, Suhairi hopes that people can acknowledge the capabilities of the intellectually disabled instead of just focusing on their shortcomings.
“Don’t look down on us. We might be slower in studies, but we are good at hands-on work and sports. We don’t create trouble. That’s what I want the mainstream students to know.”
Read on to find out what Suhairi has up his sleeves as he journeys to the 9th ASEAN Para Games in KL!
Stay tuned to TeamSingapore.sg and TeamSG Facebook for updates on our athletes at the ASEAN Para Games!