Held on Sunday, 18 September 2018, Urban Aquathlon marks its third run since
its debut in 2016. An "aquathlon" is a two-stage race comprising of a swim in open waters followed by a run. It is a good transition for those aspiring to participate in a triathlon, which includes cycling. The Urban Aquathlon is annually held at Orchid Country Club, this being the first of its kind in Singapore to have its water race uniquely conducted in an Olympic-sized swimming pool instead of the open waters, making it more conducive for participants with different abilities.
Last year, Urban Aquathlon’s brainchild, Collin Ng, introduced an "Inclusive"category in addition to the four competitive categories - Master, Open, Novice and Junior. The Inclusive category welcomes people with different or limited abilities, as well as multi-generational family participation. This furthered their aim to promote inclusion with the race being a non-competitive event comprising of a 50m swim and a 500m run.
Competing in the Masters category, Alim, who is a single-leg amputee triathlete, did the 400m swim. His tag-team partner, Boon, finished the 3km run with two prosthetic legs (and no hands). The duo received an overwhelmingly resounding accolade from the spectators and participants.
After the conclusion of the competitive categories, the “Inclusive” race was flagged off amidst an exciting cheering crowd. There were 37 participants, out of which, 8 participants represented the special needs community, including the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) and Rainbow Centre.
The Inclusive race was honourably flagged off by Jeremy Tan, a swim coach at Swim Movement. He had inspired and encouraged many of his learners with special needs to participate in the Urban Aquathlon. All the parents interviewed unanimously proclaimed that Jeremy is a coach “with a heart in the right place”.
Every participant in the Inclusive category was rewarded for his great effort with a well-deserved medal and an overwhelming level of screams and applause. In our pursuit towards a more inclusive society, it is heartwarming to have people racing together regardless of their differences and abilities.
Mei Chee, 18, was the only female participant from APSN Delta Senior School (DSS), a Special Education (SPED) school providing vocational training for students with intellectual disability aged 17 to 21. The soft-spoken teen represented the Horticulture vocation for the team event and was feeling both excited and nervous before the race. Representing the Food & Beverage vocation, a happy extrovert, Gabriel, 17, cheerfully shared that he trains in the Ang Peng Siong Swimming Club and was looking forward to the race. His teammate, Pok Yao, 18, represented the Retails & Operations vocation. He was very happy to have come with his personal entourage and supporters - his parents as well as his elder brother. Penn, 17, from the Hospitality & Services vocation, was confident about his freestyle and breaststroke styles. It is no wonder since his Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) is swimming, according to Health and Fitness teacher Boon Kit.
At the flag off, the DSS team dived in methodically one after another. Each participant smoothly swam the 50m, then independently put on their running gear and ran the 500m like the wind. Boon Kit later revealed, "Some of them were nervous as it was their first (experience) and didn't know what to expect. After the race, they all felt they could do a longer distance! In fact, Penn is wanting to challenge the Novice category next year!"
From the Rainbow Centre, Krish, 11, has Dyspraxia (a developmental delay of the brain and causes difficulties in activities requiring movement and coordination) and Global Development Delay. He is non-verbal and uses sign language and a communication app. While Krish may not have come across as a proficient athlete, he had been swimming with coach Jeremy since he was five, and he determinedly completed the 50m swim with a smile. It was a beautiful sight to witness the support from his parents. Anand, his dad, who sacrificed his career to be the main caregiver, was racing alongside Krish while his mother, Kabita, was exhilaratingly cheering while lugging bags and taking pictures to capture the proud moments.
Diagnosed with Möbius Syndrome (a very rare genetic condition that affects the cranial nerves), Jarene, 10, faces many challenges like low muscle tone and delayed physical coordination development. The condition also impairs her facial expression, speech and the ability to swallow, resulting in continual drooling. All these did not deter her from wanting to race. The day before the competition, she was battling a cold and did not sleep well. Her mom, Mrs Hong, succumbed to Jarene’s relentless persuasion and took her to the race despite her still in recovery. They arrived late, but Collin enthusiastically re-opened the race just for Jarene. As coach Jeremy flagged off, Jarene jumped in and swam freestyle ferociously. When she showed signs of tiredness, Mrs Hong would intermittently pass the float to Jarene for assistance. Amidst a roaring throng, Jarene completed the 50m swim and without stopping, she plodded on and finished the 500m run.
My name is Lawrence. I am married and have a son who has the amazing gift of autism! As a writer here, I hope to share, ramble, listen, take questions. Simply open the pandora box and have fun. I welcome your critique, feedback and questions.
Read about his story here.
Q: What are the various compressive suits available and in what way do they help a child with special needs?
A: There are various compressive suits available worldwide, just do a google search on compressive suits for therapy and a long list will appear. Each suit has different properties, is made of different materials and claims to have certain benefits. For example: compressive suits for children with autism are supposed to improve sensory input. Compressive suits have also been used for children with poor balance and proprioception (knowing where your limbs are in space). However, not all suits are suitable for all children. Compressive suits can cause increased difficulty in breathing, worsen scoliosis or hip dysplasia if not fitted properly.
Please consult your therapist for an assessment before use.
Credit: A video by Channel 5
Credit: A video by Trixie Chua & Celine Kim for Special Seeds Singapore.
Credit: A video by NCSS