He can’t see, but he can cy­cle

The vis­ually im­paired keep ac­tive through tan­dem cy­cling with sighted vol­un­teers.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - Sto­ries by MING TEOH star2@thes­tar.com.my

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

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