‘Getting on with it’ is my motto to survive in life.
At 34, I was the oldest athlete representing Team Thailand at the recent 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
It was my first time on a plane. I was so nervous but I just got on with it.
‘Getting on with it’ is what I always tell myself to do in life.
Growing up with Down Syndrome, I struggled to express myself and got frustrated when people couldn’t understand me. As a teenager, I was aggressive. I shouted at others and got into fights. Sometimes, I would act out by stealing.
My family described me as ‘destructive’. My mother had to work hard to support my sister and I. She found it a challenge to take care of me. And so more than 20 years ago, my family decided to leave me in the care of the Ban Kru Boonchoo Foundation, which runs a home for children with disabilities, in Cholburi province.
In the early days at the children’s home, I felt abandoned. If my own family didn’t want to care for me, who would?
I was so wrong. Over the years, I realized that if others are willing to trust and believe that I am capable of good, then I must not give up on myself. I have to get on with it.
I found a new family and purpose. Everyone is kind to me. I now call the director of the foundation, ‘mother’. At the home, I am entrusted with a job, helping with administrative tasks and chores. I have learnt how to be responsible and play the role of a big brother to the younger residents.
I was thrilled to be selected to represent Thailand in athletics at the recent World Games. I trained twice every day, before and after work. I was told that it didn’t matter if I brought home a medal so long as I tried my best.
But guess what? I took home two Gold medals in the 100m and 200m races. I was also selected to represent Thailand in the Athletes’ Parade at the Games’ Closing Ceremony. I was so proud when I stepped into the huge stadium and waved to the thousands of people cheering us on.
At the World Games, I also went through a Healthy Athletes health screening, catered to athletes with intellectual disabilities like me. Doctors found a problem with my hearing due to compacted ear wax. Previously, when my friends spoke to me, I often wouldn’t respond. They assumed I couldn’t understand them because of my disability, and would repeat the words slowly to get my attention. I was referred to a doctor after the screening, and the problem has since been fixed. I can now hear my friends loud and clear!
When I arrived home after the Games, I was so surprised to see all the staff and my friends from the foundation waiting to give me a hero’s welcome. Our neighbors from the village were also present, and they paraded down the street carrying banners with my photo on them.
My life is no longer the same. I feel like a hero and a role model, a far cry from the rebellious teenager I once was. My health and fitness has also improved. There are still days when I feel like I have to get on with it, but I do so standing tall and with a fighting spirit.