For those who follow local sporting news, Theresa’s broad, happy smile and strong physique sitting atop a wheelchair is a familiar sight. The national swimmer, after all, clinched a Bronze for Singapore at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in a 100m breaststroke event. That win, she said, was one of the most memorable moments for her. She fondly recalls how she got out of the pool and hugged a fellow competitor who had earlier told her in the changing rooms that this was her time.
Theresa, who was born with spina bifida and is paralysed from the waist down, said the pool was where she felt free. “I enjoy the journey sports has brought me on. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met. It has completely changed my life. I cannot imagine life without being involved in sports,” she said.
Theresa hung up her goggles two years ago though, saying that her Paralympic journey was complete and she has fulfilled all her dreams in the pool. Even so, she said she hopes that the scene will continue to grow, even during off-peak Paralympic season. Having started swimming at 15, her advice to young athletes was this: “Ensure that you are able to find enjoyment in the sport you choose. That’s how you maintain longevity and sanity.”
The trailblazer for disability sport is also sometimes in the news for another cause she supports: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)rights. Theresa is open about being queer and in 2017 was an ambassador for LGBT rally Pink Dot. She has also spoken about her sexuality to local broadsheet The Straits Times, saying her win in the 2016 Games made her feel like she should use the attention for a bigger message beyond sports and disability. Her identity as a queer woman is definitely a big part of Theresa, who when asked to list three identities important to her, gave this succinct answer: “Queer, cat lover, swimmer.”
Asked who inspires her, Theresa named her former teammate and bestfriend Yip Pin Xiu, whom she described as “incredibly hardworking, super stubborn, and we shared a lot of the hardships and successes on my journey”. And if she ever publishes an autobiography, Theresa has already shortlisted a title: Goh-ing with the Flow.
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