Engineering student pushes on

Sharul training with the  national para-athletics team.  ST Photo by: Desmond Wee

He makes his way between classrooms, lecture theatres and labs each day, just like any other student in Temasek Polytechnic. But final year Electronics student Shahrul Izwan does it on a wheelchair, all by himself. Sometimes his friends help him, but otherwise, the resolute young man is determined not to let his physical handicap get in his way. 

Shahrul suffers from a condition known as spastic paralysis, which causes him to lose control of his legs. In 2009, when he was in Sec 3, the active teenager who represented East View Sec School in floorball, noticed something was wrong. He recalled: “I could feel that my legs were getting weaker and weaker. I thought then that maybe it was because I was training too much, so I gave up floorball and switched to a less physical CCA, Dikir Barat.”

But his condition got worse, and one day while walking on a pavement, his legs just gave way and he fell. A subsequent MRI scan revealed a growth inside his brain which affects his spinal cord and his mobility. Surgery was a risky option, so Shahrul decided not to proceed with the operation.

As his condition deteriorated, he went from using crutches in 2011 to needing a wheelchair in 2014. “Because of my condition, I lost a lot of confidence in myself,” recalled the 23-year-old. 

Then in October 2016, on his sister’ suggestion, he joined the national para-athletics training team and subsequently took part in World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Beijing in May 2017 and in September, he made his debut at the ASEAN Para Games in Kuala Lumpur. Today, he trains regularly with the national para-athletics team, and has set his sights on achieving new goals.   

“I’ve grown more confident in myself now,” he proclaimed with grit. “Our circumstances may change, but there will always be new goals to achieve, and we should never let set-backs deter us from living our lives fully,” he added.

Adapted from article by Alvin Chia in The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2017.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Adapted with permission.