He can’t see, but he can cycle
The visually impaired keep active through tandem cycling with sighted volunteers.
EDDY Chong was struck with dengue fever at the age of 31. The illness left him blind, partially deaf, partially paralysed from the waist down, and with a weak heart and asthma. But if you met him today, you’d think that he has achieved as much as, if not more, than many who are not visually, auditorily, or physically impaired.
“From my illness in 1997 until the age of 35, I decided to motivate myself and not let myself be hindered from achieving my dreams by any physical limitations. I decided to think out of the box,” he says at a recent interview, the determination clear in his voice.
“Since I lived in a five-storey apartment and didn’t want to inconvenience my family members or friends by asking them to take me and my wheelchair up and down the stairs, I decided that I just had to walk. And one day, when I wanted to go to a nearby coffee shop, I just ... walked.
“Every few steps I took, I would fall down, but I just kept at it and I finally reached it. It took me four years to get back on my feet and walk with crutches,” he says.
Today, at the age of 51, Chong walks unaided. He currently works as a motivational speaker.
‘Cool breeze in my face’
Chong, who is from Sarawak, has also achieved his goal of climbing Mount Kinabalu, which happened in 2011 with the help of his hiking friends.
“It took me eight hours to get from the Base Camp to Laban Rata, and five hours to get from there to the peak. That’s longer than most people would take, but I did it!” he says triumphantly.
Chong loves hiking but has given up the activity because he doesn’t want to inconvenience his friends and the volunteers who have to accompany him: “I felt that hiking was not the sport for me because I was just too slow and I didn’t want to hold anybody back,” he explains.
In 2011, he discovered tandem cycling when his family went to Shanghai to visit his sister.
“It was too tiring to walk from place to place, so we hired tandem bicycles. It was the first time that I rode tandem, and I loved it,” he enthuses.
“I realised that it was good for my heart, and my asthma improved. I enjoyed the fresh air, the cool breeze in my face, and it felt really good,” he says (Chong already knew how to cycle as he had learned as a child).
When he returned to Malaysia, Chong was determined to get his own tandem bicycle.
It took him eight months to find one, and a year to find someone to ride with him.
“I asked many people, neighbours, friends, but it was quite difficult because the person would have to get me up and down the many flights of stairs at my place,” he explains (he was unable to walk unaided at the time).
Finally, a churchmate agreed. Their first ride was from Chong’s home in Puchong, Selangor, to Putrajaya and back, a distance of 70km. Subsequently, he tandem cycled to Batu Pahat, Johor, and the foothills of Fraser’s Hill, Pahang.
‘Drinks and kuih’
Chong certainly believes cycling can unite people – it united him with his wife, after all!
He met and got to know his wife, Lui Siow Ling, 40, three years ago through cycling and other activities, and they married in October last year.
“I first met her at a Harley Davidson event and invited her to try tandem cycling,” he says, adding that they were just friends initially but the romance blossomed from there.
He believes more Malaysians should cycle because it does help to bring people together.
“When cycling to different places, people have always been kind, some even offering us drinks and kuih. There have been times when we were lost and people actually came out to lead us to our destination on their motorbikes,” he says.
In fact, Chong wants to spread the word about cycling’s power to instil harmony and unite people: “It has always been my dream to ride around Peninsular Malaysia and meet the state dignitaries and the communities, to let them know how cycling unites the mind, soul, and heart to appreciate one’s country,” he says.
He also wants to emphasise that tandem cycling isn’t just for the visually impaired; it’s an activity that attracts both sighted and non-sight- ed cyclists, from all over Malaysia as well as overseas from countries like Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, and Germany.
Ride for Malaysia is an event jointly organised by the Star Media Group and Sunsuria Bhd to promote national unity and patriotism among Malaysians. It will take place on July 30 at Sunsuria City in Putrajaya. For more stories and information, go to tinyurl.com/tsol-rfm.
Chong wears a warning sign when he cycles.
Chong (left) guides himself to his seat on the tandem bike by placing his hand on Ng’s shoulder.
Chong (right) with sighted cy
Chong (right) training sighted cyclist Gus Ghani as a new captain for tandem cycling.
— EDDY CHONG
Group ride from the Malaysian Associatio earlier this year. — EDDY CHONG
d cyclist Jeffrey Ng riding tandem. — Photos: Filepics
iation of the Blind in Kuala Lumpur to Hulu Langat Homestay in Selangor