Pioneering Paralympic swimmer and advocate for disability sports
When Theresa Goh was born, doctors feared she might not survive. She was a premature baby, born at seven months. And she was found to have congenital spine bifida, where the spinal cord is not fully formed at birth. This, in most cases, leads to disability.
Theresa does not have the use of her legs, and she has a hearing problem because of an undeveloped left ear. But “I’m fine with it”, she says, because without her disabilities she would not be swimming and where she is today.
Theresa is Singapore’s first local Paralympic swimmer, a pioneer in the pool. She began swimming when she was five to gain upper body strength. By the time she was 12, she was taking part in competitions and she soon started to break world records in her events. She was the first swimmer to represent Singapore at the Paralympics, taking part in the 2004 Athens Games.
While Theresa may have yet to win a Paralympic medal, she has amassed more medals at the Asean Para Games and at other international events than many able-bodied athletes. At the 2012 London Paralympics, Theresa was the flag-bearer for the Singapore contingent. Where she was once shy and hesitant, she is now confident and outgoing and has become a spokesperson for disability sports. Her achievements have inspired other young Singaporeans with disabilities to set their sights on competitive sports.
She maintains an intensive training schedule of working out at the gym three times a week and training in the pool twice a day for five days a week. She says she is always happy to be in the pool because she can move freely in the water, unlike when she is in her wheelchair and has to negotiate all manner of obstacles.
Theresa worked for some time at Standard Chartered Bank and gained, she said, valuable exposure to the corporate life. She has been working towards a degree in exercise and sports, and hopes to go into coaching one day.
The Singapore Disability Sports Council named Theresa the Sportsgirl of the Year in 2002 and 2003, and Sportswoman of the Year from 2004 to 2006. In 2008, she was awarded the Public Service Medal in the National Day Awards.
Theresa has recently clinched two bronze medals for the Women's 100m Breaststroke and the Women's 100m Freestyle events at the Asian Paralympic Games in October 2014.
Theresa was Her World magazine’s “Young Woman Achiever” in 2005.
"It’s because I can fall so often that I learn how to get up."