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Destined To Win

Naren(centre) pictured with his parents at the 9th ASEAN Para Games. (Photo Credit: Matthew Mohan-AFP Services)
Naren(centre) pictured with his parents at the 9th ASEAN Para Games. (Photo Credit: Matthew Mohan-AFP Services)

“When you set your heart on something, you should do your best to see it through to the end, no matter what it takes.” This never-say-die mantra has enabled ASEAN Para Games 2017 handcycling silver medallist, Naren Lee Sankar, to triumph through life’s challenges. From a young age, Naren, who was born with cerebral palsy, was actively involved in a variety of sports such as swimming, water-skiing and horseback riding.

The current SIM-RMIT Bachelor of Business (Marketing) student also competed in chess at a national level.

“Since young, my mother got me involved in sports as she wanted me to stay active and have fun while doing it. I took a keen interest in chess,” Naren shares.

“If I told you that you are able to tell someone’s character through playing chess, you wouldn’t believe me but I find it to be true. People who are loud and extroverted usually go on the offensive first, whereas people who are more introverted tend to have a better defence,” he quips.

In 2015, Naren decided to take up handcycling as a new sport. His impressive ability caught the eye of the President of the Handcycling Association of Singapore and he approached Naren to represent the country at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games. Although he wasn’t as confident at first, Naren decided to take up the challenge of competing at the Para Games.

“I couldn’t turn my bike very well as the right side of my body is weak and my dominant hand is the left one. So, making a 180- degree turn was challenging for me. However, I decided to take on this challenge. When I make a commitment to do something, I will give it my best shot. My parents also gave me the assurance to pursue handcycling.”

The hectic training schedules in the lead-up to the competition meant that Naren could only focus on just one competitive sport. He also took a semester off from university to train for the Para Games.

Naren was eventually rewarded for his resilience and dedication. His courageous performance earned him a silver medal at the Para Games, Men’s 12.3 km Individual Time Trial (H1-H5) race, clocking in a time of 28:43.0.59 minutes. This was Singapore’s first medal in handcycling.

“I was nervous but when the race started, all I could think of was doing the best that I could to reach the finish line. It didn’t really hit me until I saw the Singapore flag being raised at the end. That’s when I realised how important this win was. It made me feel a strong sense of pride to do the nation proud,” he says.

Naren celebrates his victory. (Photo Credit: Matthew Mohan-AFP Services)
Naren celebrates his victory. (Photo Credit: Matthew Mohan-AFP Services)

Winning Life’s Battles

Beyond the race tracks, Naren has overcome many personal battles through sheer grit and determination. He recalls struggling with an Accounting module in his first year at university. “I wasn’t very strong at the subject and took some time to grasp the concepts,” he shares.

“My lecturer was very worried for me before the exams even though I took remedial lessons. However, I assured him that I would pass the module. I practised a lot and would do questions over and over again. Eventually, I cleared the module. It felt rewarding to know my hard work paid off.”

The journey at SIM-RMIT has been an enjoyable one for Naren. “The lecturers have been very accommodating. Whenever I don’t understand something, I can always clarify with them. They have always availed themselves before and after lectures and I appreciate that,” he adds.

Naren will begin his second semester at SIM-RMIT next year. He also intends to represent Singapore at more handcycling competitions.

For those who have faced setbacks in life and are afraid of taking on challenges, Naren has a word of advice: “Don’t let fear hold you back from trying again. Never be afraid to take the next step and strive to be the best that that you can be. When you do that, I believe you’ll be able to overcome all your difficulties.”

Posted online, 28 November 2017