Rid­ing to in­spire

Na­tional par­a­lympian de­fies the odds to live life to the fullest.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By MING TEOH news­desk@thes­tar.com.my

A DE­TER­MI­NA­TION to live life to the fullest af­ter a near-fa­tal road ac­ci­dent pro­pelled Alvin Lim on an in­spir­ing jour­ney to be­come Malaysia’s first na­tional par­a­lympic hand­cy­clist.

Seven­teen years ago, the for­mer air stew­ard from Me­laka was trav­el­ling to Sin­ga­pore on his su­per­bike when he col­lided with an oil tanker.

The ac­ci­dent rup­tured the then-25year-old’s aorta and left him paral­ysed from the waist down.

That might have de­terred most peo­ple from liv­ing their life to the fullest, but it did not stop him.

Lim, who is now 42, was se­lected to join Malaysia’s para­cy­cling team in Jan­uary this year.

He picked up the ac­tiv­ity while vis­it­ing his sis­ter in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, two years ago, and started hand­cy­cling in Malaysia last year. His goal is to reach the 2020 Sum­mer Par­a­lympics, with the SEA games hosted by Malaysia in Au­gust this year his first tar­get. “This is my step­ping stone. My per­for­mance in the SEA Games will de­ter­mine my fu­ture in the sport,” he said.

“The up­com­ing SEA Games and Asean Para Games are go­ing to have a ma­jor im­pact on our ath­letes.

Hav­ing the homeground ad­van­tage is such a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor, not just be­cause of the fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings, but also the power that comes from the love, sup­port, and en­ergy from our fel­low coun­try men ,” he said.

This is Lim’s first foray into com­pet­i­tive sports. He ad­mits that he started late, used to be se­verely over­weight, and was not fit, so it’s a twofold task: to get him­self into shape, and to be­come com­pet­i­tive.

Lim says he en­joys the free­dom of cy­cling. “The wind in my face, the speed that I can achieve is a stark con­trast to the wheel­chair that I’m bound to, and it’s so ex­hil­a­rat­ing! I still feel it ev­ery time I get on my bike,” he en­thused.

“I never imag­ined where cy­cling would take me. I first started this be­cause I wanted to be healthy. Since that ac­ci­dent put me in a wheel­chair 17 years ago, my weight has been go­ing up and down, and it doesn’ t take a ge­nius to fig­ure out that I was headed for se­ri­ous health com­pli­ca­tions if

I kept go­ing down that path.

“Sec­ond, it stirred my pas­sion for cy­cling again. I had for­got­ten what it felt like and the very first time I got on the hand­cy­cle, all the past feel­ings and emo­tions came back, and I fell in love again,” he said.

Lim said he has lost ap­prox­i­mately 16kg since he started cy­cling, and is the health­i­est he has been for a long time.

“Also, who would have thought that this would be­come a plat­form for me to com­pete and rep­re­sent the coun­try. In the six months since join­ing the na­tional team, I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to wave our coun­try’s flag in Sin­ga­pore, the Mid­dle East, and Europe,” he added.

“It’s re­ally mind-blow­ing when you ac­tu­ally think about it. Just two months’ ago, I was cy­cling along the coastal road in Os­tend, Bel­gium, pre­par­ing for my race the next day when it sud­denly hit me! I’m cy­cling in Europe, pre­par­ing for a world race! Me – the fat kid who didn’t even have an ath­letic bone in his body – in a world race, rep­re­sent­ing the na­tion! How awe­some is that?” he said ex­cit­edly. “It’s some­thing that I never in my wildest dreams imag­ined would be­come a re­al­ity,” he shared.

Lim added that be­sides road cy­cling at the Guthrie Cor­ri­dor Ex­press­way, he also en­joys leisurely cy­cling at places like Desa Park City, Kuala Lumpur and Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, Shah Alam.

He cy­cles us­ing a three-wheeled re­cum­bent with a hand-pow­ered crank, in a ly­ing down po­si­tion in the bike, fac­ing the sky with his feet stretched out. The frame is unique but the driv­e­train (what’s used to move the bike) is the same as a reg­u­lar bi­cy­cle, with the only dif­fer­ence be­ing: where a reg­u­lar bi­cy­cle has ped­als, his has hand grips to turn the crank.

“While the arms are not as pow­er­ful as the legs, and there is no mo­tor as­sis­tance, just pure hu­man ef­fort, we do have gears that make the task some­what eas­ier,” he ex­plained.

“Be­ing so low to the ground and hav­ing the crank right in my line of sight, vis­i­bil­ity may be some­what lim­ited com­pared to a reg­u­lar cy­clist. But if there is one trait that hu­man be­ings have, it’s our adapt­abil­ity,” he said with de­ter­mi­na­tion in his voice. “The body sim­ply ad­justs to the sit­u­a­tion, and pretty soon, it be­comes sec­ond na­ture.”

Lim trains six days a week, com­bin­ing out­side rides, cy­cling on train­ers and gym ses­sions for build­ing strength.

He be­lieves that cy­cling is good and en­cour­ages more Malaysians to take up the ac­tiv­ity.

Par­tic­i­pants of Ride for Malaysia – an up­com­ing cy­cling event on July 30 or­gan­ised by Star Me­dia Group and Sun­suria Ber­had – will get the chance to cy­cle with Lim, who said he will be tak­ing part in the event.

Lim said cy­cling is not just good for health, but can also pro­mote na­tional unity. “The thing that brings peo­ple to­gether is fo­cus­ing on what they have in com­mon rather than on their dif­fer­ences,” he added.

Free spirit: Be­ing paral­ysed from the waist down has not stopped Lim from pur­su­ing his pas­sion for cy­cling.

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