“I don’t know what happened exactly. I just remember drinking the night before, and the next day I woke up in the hospital. Two weeks later, a physiotherapist came in and told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk again. I cried, and the physiotherapist held me and cried with me.

I supposedly fell from the fourth floor of a block, but no one can be too sure because I was alone after work, and it happened around 3am. I was on my way to visit a friend but ended up at the wrong block. In the morning, cleaners found me lying unconscious on the floor.

Even now, if I’m honest about what had happened with people, they’d tell me that I shouldn’t have been drinking that night. To me, it’s pointless talking about how or why it happened. My priority now is to regain independence and support myself financially to lessen the burden on my family.

There was a period of denial at first. I tried skipping physio because I didn’t want to see other people adapting to their wheelchairs. The five stages of grief are anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and it took me three months to adjust to my new reality.

Sports was never a big part of my life, but part of the rehabilitation process involved handcycling. I’m a naturally grumpy person and I was never an easy patient to deal with, but my physiotherapist said I smiled for the first time when I tried handcycling.

From handcycling, I eventually progressed to table tennis. I really liked table tennis in primary school, but now I have to make adjustments when I play because I’m in a wheelchair. Apart from the difference in height and rules, everything’s pretty much the same.

I think I enjoy how you have to constantly think, adapt and plan when you play table tennis. From the moment you serve, you have to anticipate the next move. It’s a concentration game and everything happens very fast.

I’m really not sure how I was selected to compete in the 2015 ASEAN Para Games, but I was just hoping that I didn’t lose too badly. The Thai girl I was up against is a Paralympian, while I was just starting out as a competitive player. I lost, of course, but I gained experience.

Two years have passed and I’m more prepared now, but I know that the biggest obstacle is still me. I’m very aggressive when I train, but when I’m in a competitive setting, I’m defensive for some reason. I really hope to apply what I’ve been working on at the 2017 Para Games.

If I were to win a medal, I’m dedicating it to my younger sister. She’s spending her birthday in Kuala Lumpur when I’m there to compete, so that will be my present to her. I really hope to make my family and friends who have been there for me proud.” – Claire Toh, 24


Support our table tennis players at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games from 17-23 September in KL. To know more about the Singapore Disability Sports Council:


Must Read: ASEAN Para Games 2017


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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.