SINGAPORE – Nine years ago, Theresa Goh seriously contemplated retiring after failing to win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
But after nearly nine months of soul-searching, she finally decided to plough on.
Last year, her decision to persevere paid off when she won her first Paralympic medal - a bronze in the SB4 100m breaststroke at the Rio Paralympics.
That achievement, along with the hard work she has put into swimming for the past 18 years, were recognised on Tuesday (Aug 8) as the 30-year-old was inducted into the national Sport Hall of Fame (HOF) alongside Olympic champion Joseph Schooling and Para-equestrienne Laurentia Tan, who has four Paralympic medals (one silver, three bronze) to her name.
Goh said the lessons she learnt from that dark period have helped shape her into the person she is today.
“There’s been lots of ups-and-downs in my career, but I don’t regret a single thing. If I had won a medal in Beijing, things could have been very different, and I could have been a different person now,” she told TODAY.
“My failure taught me that physical rewards, like medals, aren’t as important as my journey in the sport, and how I choose to go through it.
“Being able to do what I love, living life to the fullest and choosing to be happy is something that I live by now.”
Goh’s induction sees her joining the likes of sailor Benedict Tan, sprinter C Kunalan, paddler Feng Tianwei and silat exponent Sheik Alau’ddin. Established in 1985, the HOF honours Singapore’s top athletes who have excelled in their sport, instilled pride among Singaporeans, and served as role models for the community.
Goh said: “The people inside are big achievers who’ve done great things for our country. So to be part of that list is something I never expected to happen. I’m really honoured.
“Joseph and Laurentia are both amazing athletes, so it’s wonderful to be inducted at the same time as them.”
Both Goh and Tan are also the second and third para athletes to enter the HOF, following para swimmer Yip Pin Xiu’s induction in 2015.
Goh believes the inclusion of more para-athletes into the HOF will help spread the message of inclusiveness in local sports and the community.
“I think everything is moving in a positive manner for para-sports, and I believe things will only get better,” she explained. “I hope this will be reflected in other areas as well...so not just for para sports to be in the HOF, but also at sports awards, (more coverage) in the media, and in other public ways.”
Close to 6,000 people attended the Sport HOF ceremony at the Singapore Sports Hub which was held in conjunction with the finale of GetActive! Singapore, a 12-day lead-up event to National Day that attracted more than 680,000 people through sport competitions, Active Enabler Programmes, sport festivals, school engagement sessions and other activities.
Among those present at the HOF ceremony was Culture, Community and Youth Mnister Grace Fu, who congratulated to Schooling, Tan and Goh for their induction.
She said: “Through years of hard work, perseverance and commitment to excellence, their efforts have placed Singapore on the global sporting map. I am sure they will continue to make Singapore proud and inspire the next generation of athletes to strive for even greater heights!”
Schooling, who became Singapore’s first-ever Olympic champion at the Rio de Janeiro Games last year, dedicated his induction to his family, friends and coaches.
“To be inducted into the Sport Hall of Fame at 22 years old, and being associated with an exclusive group of top Singaporean athletes is an utmost honour,” he said. “This is not a recognition for my personal achievements but also for the unwavering support from my family, friends and coaches who have contributed to my sporting journey.
“Recollecting how the nation was beaming with pride and unity in 2016 after I won Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal, I hope to be able to continue breaking new grounds to keep the inspiration alive, to encourage the next generation to believe in dreaming big and making them a reality.”
Tan, who made history as Singapore’s first Paralympic medallist in 2008, said of her induction: “To have my sports career and its legacy forever be a part of Singapore’s history is an amazing honour and very, very humbling.
"I feel really blessed. It is my love and passion for horse-riding that I am here.”