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PARALYMPICS-FOO Aug-21-2012 (540 words) With photo. xxxi
When Paralympian faces challenges, she talks to God
By Martin See
Gemma Rose Foo, a parishioner at the Church of the Holy Spirit in the Archdiocese of Singapore, is pictured with her horse. (CNS/Catholic News)
Catholic News Service
SINGAPORE (CNS) -- When 16-year-old Paralympian Gemma Rose Foo faces challenges, she talks to God -- and "he sometimes talks back to me, and that calms me down."
Foo, a parishioner at Singapore's Church of the Holy Spirit, said her faith has given her the "strength to go ahead and reach for her goals despite the challenges."
"Win or lose, I know that he will be looking out for me as he always does," said Foo, who, with two other teammates, was traveling to London to compete in equestrian events during the Aug. 29-Sept. 9 Paralympics.
The student at St. Theresa's Convent School has cerebral palsy, and she will participate in the Para-Equestrian dressage grade 1a. It is believed this is the first time an Asian country is sending a Para-Equestrian team to the games, reported Catholic News, Singapore's archdiocesan newspaper.
When Catholic News visited Foo at the National Equestrian Center in early August, the young sportswoman was all smiles as she demonstrated her moves.
Foo said her event requires the rider "to be in harmony with the horse to execute specific movements in set patterns."
"Riding is not just a sport. It is a form of physiotherapy as well, which helped me with my balance and coordination. Competing in the sport has also built my confidence," she told Catholic News in an email interview.
"My disability mostly affects my legs and the way I walk. I overcome this by not feeling sorry for myself and reminding myself that I am just like anyone else," she said.
"Everything (God) does is not without reason; even the fact that he made me this way," she said.
Foo took the past year off school -- "with my school principal's blessings" -- to train for the Paralympics.
She added that Principal Pauline Wong also "made a lot of provisions to accommodate my disability by moving my classroom downstairs (so that) I wouldn't have to climb the stairs."
Preparing for the Paralympic qualifying competitions was not without incident, Foo recalled, such as the time when her horse "got spooked ... took off in the middle of a competition and threw me off."
"Through it all, I still kept my faith, knowing that God will eventually grant my wish to be in the games, and he did," she added.
Foo said she is grateful for the strong support she gets from friends, school and family.
"My dad is willing to spend on my riding even as he struggles with the finances, and my mom accompanies me everywhere, giving up her work to be my caregiver," she said. Her sister is also "very proud" of her, Foo said.
"All in all I am blessed and very grateful for all these 'angels' in my life," she said.
Al Dizon, Foo's parish religious education teacher, said that although she had missed classes because of her training schedule and competitions, "whenever she is present for class, she lights it up with her participation."
He added that Foo considered joining her confirmation class' mission trip to the Philippines last December "in the belief that her presence would be a source of inspiration" for the children there. However, she was unable to join the group because of her training schedule.
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Martin See writes for Catholic News, Singapore's archdiocesan newspaper.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
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