Win or lose, God is looking out for me, says Gemma Rose Foo, who is taking part in the Paralympic Games
Gemma Rose Foo, a Holy Spirit Church parishioner representing Singapore in the London Paralympic Games, says her faith has given her the “strength to go ahead and reach for her goals despite the challenges” she faces.
“Win or lose, I know that He will be looking out for me as he always does,” said the 16-year-old who, together with two other teammates, is set to compete in the equestrian or horse-riding events.
The CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent student suffers from cerebral palsy, and experiences impaired muscle coordination and difficulty processing information at times.
However, the bubbly teenager is not one to let her condition get her down.
When CatholicNews visited her at the National Equestrian Centre in Thompson on Aug 2, the young sportswoman was all smiles as she demonstrated some of her moves in the upcoming games – such as manoeuvring her horse through eight-metre circles and figures of eight.
Foo explained that the Grade 1a Dressage, the event she is participating in, requires the rider “to be in harmony with the horse to execute specific movements in set patterns”.
“Riding is not just a sport. It is a form of physiotherapy as well which helped me with my balance and coordination. Competing in the sport has also built my confidence,” she told CatholicNews in an email interview.
“My disability mostly affects my legs and the way I walk. I overcome this by not feeling sorry for myself and reminding myself that I am just like anyone else,” she said.
She shared that she always talks to God whenever she faces challenges and “He sometimes talks back to me and that calms me down”.
“Everything He does is not without reason; even the fact that He made me this way.”
She added that she has taken this whole year off school to train for the Paralympics “with my school principal’s blessings”.
Mrs Pauline Wong also “made a lot of provisions to accommodate my disability by moving my classroom downstairs [so that] I wouldn’t have to climb the stairs”, Foo shared.
Her team will compete in events on Aug 31, Sept 2 and Sept 4 during the Paralympic Games, which will last from Aug 29-Sept 9.
It is believed this is the first time an Asian country is sending a Para-Equestrian team to the games.
However, taking part in the qualifying competitions was not without incident, Foo recalled, such as the time when her horse “got ‘spooked’ … took off in the middle of a competition and threw me off”.
However, “through it all, I still kept my faith, knowing that God will eventually grant my wish to be in the games and He did!”
Foo says she is grateful for the strong support she gets from friends, school and family.
“My dad is willing to spend on my riding even as he struggles with the finances, and my mom accompanies me everywhere, giving up her work to be my caregiver,” she said. Her sister is also “very proud” of her, Foo said, adding that “I am grateful to have someone who understands me”.
“All in all I am blessed and very grateful for all these ‘angels’ in my life,” she said.
Mr Al Dizon, Foo’s catechism teacher at the Church of the Holy Spirit, noted that although she had missed classes because of her training schedule and competitions, “whenever she is present for class, she lights it up with her participation”.
He added that she was considering joining her Confirmation class’ mission trip to Bicol, the Philippines, last December, “in the belief that her presence would be a source of inspiration” for the underprivileged and disabled children there.
However, she was unable to do so due to her training schedule.
By Martin See