Nil Sine Labore: Nothing without Labour
He’s always been an active person but Zac Leow, now 29 years of age, got into the marathon game only four years ago; a decision he shares to be spurred by his undergraduate studies in Sports Physiology. “After all, I am in the sports industry, I wanted to practice what I preach and lead by example.”
“I loved the challenges presented by a marathon,” he mused. “The determination needed during training, the discipline needed on a daily basis and the pain that comes with every step taken.” “A marathon is a very honest race,” he explained to us over an email interview. “You reap what you sow.”
Leow was training ten sessions a week, raining from 400m repeats to 35km long runs with his then university, University of Western Australia’s Triathlon Club. He had clocked his personal best of 2 hours and 59 minutes at the 2012 Kobe Marathon in Japan and was hoping to quality for the 2015 SEA (Southeast Asian) Games that was set to be held on Singapore soil. The chances of Leow qualifying was very high.
But just as he was finding his stride in running long distances, Leow found all his dreams and hard work come crashing down one fateful day in late 2013. A fatal bicycle accident left Leow’s spine fractured and his spinal cord damaged. Despite being fully conscious and aware of the blood pooling around his body by the ride of the road, Leow found that he was unable to move. Fortunately, a couple of passers-by witnessed the accident and sent for help.
At the hospital, however, Leow’s fortune wasn’t quite as bright. “I was told during my first prognosis that I could be permanently paralysed for the rest of my life. I was told that I am a C1 incomplete spinal cord injury patient.” And that was the good news. Had the damage been just a millimetre higher, Leow would have died on impact.
Just like that, Leow’s life took for a turn. Simple tasks such as buttoning his clothes or putting on his pants was a task insurmountable. He was upset, frustrated and angry. “Daily activities such as brushing my teeth and feeding myself were a huge challenge,” Leow lamented. “Getting around in a wheelchair also meant that people would look at you differently too, especially when it’s your 68-year-old Dad wheeling you.”
Leow would have easily continued living life like this, full of self-pity and anger but one day, Leow had an epiphany that turned his life around. Determined to stop comparing himself to how easily he used to use his limbs, Leow changed his mentality and that made all the difference. “I reminded myself that it takes time for babies to learn what they know,” he explained. “I likened myself to a baby learning all over again and went on to learn new skills everyday, focusing on one skill at a time.”
One and a half years later, Leow is back on the track. He has recently taken part in the Triathlon Western Australia Time Trials, coming in at 6:04:9, a medal timing based on the previous Asian Para Games (APG). He’s training hard and on route to take part in this year’s APG held in Singapore.
Leow may have had to let go of his dream of participating in this year’s SEA Games but he hasn’t given up on his dream to represent Singapore. It’s three months to APG and we cannot wait to see him fulfil his unwavering goal. “If it ain’t challenging, you ain’t trying hard enough,” Leow says, with a laugh. Well said Leow, well said.
Interviewed by: Dis.Is.Able
Written by: A very kind volunteer