Dream Chaser - Gareth Ho
I was introduced to boccia at an MDAS event when I was in Secondary Two and played boccia recreationally. After a year, I discovered my passion. Together with the MDAS Boccia Team, we attended the ASEAN Para Games 2015 held in Singapore. At the OCBC Arena, we watched and cheered our Singapore Boccia Team. After watching them compete I became very excited and motivated. I wanted to be able to compete and one day represent Singapore in such a competition. I was inspired to train harder.
So that year, I took part in the national pairs competition for the very first time. On that day, I was quite nervous because I didn’t know any of my opponents and what to expect. My team-mate, Danial and I held our nerves well, throughout the preliminary stage and made it to the semi-finals – to our amazement. However, we lost 0-16 and lost the chance to enter the final. At that moment we felt truly disappointed.
However, Danial and I still had a chance for a bronze medal. We picked ourselves up – told ourselves to forget about what had happened in the semi-finals and to focus on the bronze medal match. It was a tough match and we felt happy and proud of ourselves when we won the bronze medal.
In the same year as my N Levels, I participated in the Boccia competitions but I didn't do well. I had missed most of the training sessions to prepare for the exams as it was important.
After passing my N Levels, I decided to stop my studies to pursue my Paralympic dream of representing Singapore in Boccia.
Since returning to boccia training in November 2017, I have increased my training sessions and I have slowly begun to regain my confidence and improve.
2018 was an unforgettable year. In May, I was invited to participate in an international friendly competition, Tiger Balm Singapore Boccia Singapore Open. In the individual event, the opponents were from Korea, and Thailand and they were the favourites to win medals. Being a debutant, I wanted to do well and gave my best. I was happy that I won one game and finished 7th out of 10 players.
In the pairs event, my team, comprising of William, Desmond and myself, were the underdogs of the competition. Our target was not to finish last and to minimise the score difference. The game against Korea was dramatic. We were tied after 4 ends and the game proceeded to a tie break. Unfortunately, we lost the game 3-4. It was a tough fight.
Our last match was against Thailand. It was a very close game and we won 5-3 and finished 3rd overall, which meant that we have won pairs a bronze medal! I was elated as it ended my 2-year medal drought. Through the competition, I also learned to better manage my stress and emotions in the game, which grew my confidence.
On 28th & 29th July, I took part in the Singapore National Games 2018 representing MDAS. Day 1 went on smoothly. I won the preliminary round and was through to the semi-finals. Day 2 wasn't that great as I made a huge mistake and lost 2–6 in the semi-finals to my opponent, Aloysius Gan from CPAS.
I had to be contented to play for the 3rd and 4th placing against fellow compatriot Danial. In the 1st and 2nd ends, Danial scored a point each. I got worried, as I was 0-2 down. So I told myself, I needed to calm down and focus. In the last two ends, I scored three points and won 3-2. I was overjoyed to win the bronze medal.
On 3rd November 2018, I took part in Singapore National Para Games (SNPG) 2018, pairs boccia competition and won a silver medal with my team-mate Desmond Lam! In semi-finals, my team-mate and I were drawn against our fellow MDAS compatriot. We dominated the game and won 10-2.
In the finals, we played against a pair from CPAS. My teammate and I put up a very tough fight and fought till the last ball. Unfortunately, we lost. We lost by a point, 2-3.
I was a bit disappointed, as we came so close to winning a gold medal. But it was okay because it was my first time making it through to the finals at the SNPG. This makes me believe that one day and with more training, I will win the gold medal.
In a surprising turn of events, I was selected to represent Singapore in the BISFed 2018 Chinese Taipei Boccia Regional Open competition. I was shocked and yet very happy to be selected. This was my very first internationally recognised competition!
The week in Taipei, from 26th November to 3rd December 2018 was most memorable. Even though I lost 6-7 to Hong Kong and 2-3 to Chinese Taipei, I was still happy as I gave my opponents a hard fight. I won 4-3 against Thailand and finish 7th out of 11 players!
Although I didn’t win any medals, I wasn’t too disappointed. More importantly I learned a lot throughout the competition such as how and when to apply different techniques and tactics. I also received useful tips and feedback from the other coaches. I appreciate the friendships made and laughter shared during the trip.
I would like to thank MDAS and coach Sya for believing in me and giving me opportunities to excel, my family and friends for encouraging me and especially my sports assistant, SK who sacrifices his free time to train regularly with me. Being technically inclined, SK fabricates my boccia equipment which has allowed me to improve in the sport. I truly appreciate his passion, dedication and commitment. Without his assistance, I will not have been able to come so far.
I'm now ranked 111 in the BISFed World Rankings for BC3. I will continue to train even harder to climb the ranks to reach my Paralympic dream!
~ Gareth Ho, aged 18