“It’s because I fall so often that I learn how to get up”

By Johnson Koh

“It’s because I fall so often that I learn how to get up” - A quote that Theresa Goh, Singapore’s first Paralympic swimmer, lives by.

(Photo Credits: Theresa Goh)

Due to congenital spina bifiida, Theresa does not have use of her legs. Nonetheless, she started swimming when she was 5 and began taking part competitively at age 12. She has won many accolades throughout her career, and this year has been a defining year for her. As she has clinched two bronze medals at the Asian Paralympic Games in Oct 2014 for the Women’s 100m Breaststroke and Women’s 100m freestyle, and was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame. She excels in her sport, previously holding the world record for 50 meters and 200 meters breaststroke. Theresa was also Singapore Disability Sports Council Sportsgirl of the Year in 2002 and 2003, and the Sportswoman of the Year from 2004 to 2006. She has been conferred the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) in the National Day Awards in 2008. Theresa will be one of the five ambassadors at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCMS) this December. She shares with us her experience at her recent events and her training for the upcoming race.


Congratulations on the recent wins, can you take us through your training and how you felt leading up to Asian Games?    

(Photo Credits: Theresa Goh)


“I was injured leading up to the Games and was relieved to have won 3 medals, of which, most surprising was the 50m free-style. I sustained a shoulder injury last December, which required surgery and rehabilitation till March this year. So I was holding back on the training for fear of aggravating it. Timing could have been better but overall I was very happy with my wins.”

“The entire Incheon experience was wonderful. The Athletes village was equipped and comfortable, with a good dining Hall, great food and secure. The volunteers and security guards were pleasant and they made the atmosphere much more delightful.  I met a couple of old friends from the past Asian Games and it was just nice to catch- up with them. So I was quite relaxed at the village.”

“I was careful to avoid burnout in the days leading up to the race. I was also vigilant about rushing my strokes during the race, being aware of where the other competitors were to avoid over-exerting. So I guess this tactic paid off in the end with the 3 medals.”

“I’ve learnt to know a lot about my body and to pace myself in the lead-up to avoid aggravating my shoulder. I love competing but I learnt that I can’t always train and race with the same intensity for physical reasons.”


You will be one of the five ambassadors at the SCMS. What are you competing in and what is your role at the Race?

I am honored to be appointed. I’m representing the Elite Athletes. All of the ambassadors this year come from different sports and backgrounds. This diverse set of people is a symbol of the multi-racial society that we are now seeing in everyday Singapore. I’m taking part in the 10k race, in a hand-bike, and will be racing money for Sportscares, an initiative by the SSC to use sports to reach out to the underprivileged, delinquents and people with disabilities.”
(Photo Credits: Theresa Goh)



Training for an event or race, be it a swimming event or a cycling race, requires a lot of dedication. What has worked for you in the past to keep going the way you are?

“I’m fortunate to have the support of my team mates. There are days when I feel lethargic and unmotivated, but they really encouraged me to focus on the big picture and keep going. Joining a running Group is a good way to keep the momentum going. Sustainability is important. One should enjoy the process and learn to train within your limits.”

“I live life without regrets. At the end of the day I know I can look back and be satisfied that I’ve tried my best. A marathon is similar in that sense, as it requires a lot of pushing yourself to the limit. However the feeling  of having completed one is exhilarating. I hope those participating will go out, enjoy the race, and do the best that they can.” 


That’s great advice. We are now approaching the last week of the race, which is tapering time. What do you do to unwind and relax?

(Photo Credits: Theresa Goh)


“I train twice 6 days a week, so I hardly have time to do much else. I’ll go out with my family on rest days, like shopping malls and experimenting different restaurants and cafes.  My friends understand how tired I am on rest days too, so I won’t do anything strenuous and just go for food and movies. I’m fortunate to have a good support group behind me.”


What are your plans after SCMS?

“Currently I’m training for the Asean Paralympic Games at the end of next year. In the long term, I hope to be a Coach or to contribute back to the Sports community servicing the disabled in some capacity. I’m fortunate to receive so much support from Singapore Sports Council and I want to do more when I retire.”

Theresa comes across as a bubbly and positive girl, full of energy and motivation to achieve more in her sports. An elite athlete in her own right, she is a suitable candidate to be SCMS’s ambassador this year. We wish her well at the event on the 7th of Dec, and look forward to her doing Singapore proud in next year’s games and beyond.



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