A burden lifted: No more worry of falling as wheelchair shuttler aims to take his game to the next level
SINGAPORE: He moves forward and backward, over and over again.
Beads of sweat drip from the chin of 23-year-old Akram Ramadan Misrawi as he strains every sinew, arching his body to hammer the shuttlecock back towards his coach.
Akram's wheelchair carves neat patterns on the weathered parquet floor of Yio Chu Kang sports hall.
Being born with skeletal dysplasia, a genetic condition which affected the development of his hands and legs, hasn't stopped Akram from pursuing his love for sports, especially badminton.
"Since young, I have been a very active person," the Nanyang Polytechnic student explained to CNA on the sidelines of his training session. "I like badminton because it makes me move around to receive the shuttlecock."
"I started out since young because usually my family would, especially during the holidays, invite me out to play badminton for recreation, under the void deck," said Akram. "They have been very supportive, they are one of the reasons why I play badminton.
While recreational badminton satiated his desire to get active, the competitive fire within the soft-spoken Akram was lit in the process.
In 2015, he began to play badminton on a competitive basis.
"If you are competitive, you have scheduled training programmes," he explained. "I like badminton so I want to increase my skills to more of a competitive level, instead of just hitting (the shuttlecock) around."
FALLING AND GETTING BACK UP
But, Akram needed a new sports wheelchair.
"What's most important in badminton is the speed," he said. "No matter how well you play, (how good) your skills are, if your speed is not there, you wont be able to return your opponents' shots."
While he had a sports wheelchair, it was not built for badminton.
"It was more for basketball. There's a different structure of the wheelchair, and that isn't suitable for badminton", he explained. "If you move fast and suddenly break, you might fall over because of the weight.
"There were numerous times where I fell over while playing, so that's why I decided to get a new chair."
But the costs of a new sports wheelchair had always been prohibitive, said Akram.
"A very good one costs S$6,000 to S$7,000," he said. "The cheapest one you can get costs S$5,000.
"It was expensive, out of my family's financial (reach)," he added.
But with the help of the Mediacorp Enable Fund, this "burden" was lifted.
"It really helped to lift the burden off our shoulders and we didn't have to worry about paying that amount of money," explained Akram, the second of three children.
"The difference is the (element of) safety. Whenever you move around, you won't feel like falling down. The new one is a bit lighter, you can move faster ... Performance-wise I am able to focus more on the game."
Now, a determined Akram has his sights set on the next level.
"I haven't really been able to participate in national games, big games, so my goal with this new chair is to excel in my training and to one day participate in games such as Asean (Para) Games," he said.
Forward, backward, he moves. Easily, smoothly. Safely.
A burden has been lifted. Akram no longer worries about falling.
Akram is a beneficiary of the Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF), a charity fund by Mediacorp and SG Enable that aims to build a society where persons with disabilities are recognised for their abilities and lead full and socially integrated lives. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is its patron.