The 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG) is not just about actual, physical sport.
Behind the computer screens that conjure up data for the official APG website sits a team of dedicated volunteers – including Fan Zeyu, an 18-year-old student. For him, the APG is just as demanding and meaningful as it is to any of the other athletes. Necessitating a keen eye for detail, his role as On-Venue Results (OVR) Assistant involves disseminating competition scores in real time by keying them into the computer system.
18 year-old technology volunteer Fan Zeyu has overcome his physical and psychological challenges to persevere for the Games despite initial thoughts of pulling out. Photo: SAPGOC
And, like most athletes, Zeyu has faced more than his fair share of difficulties in the run up to and during preparations for the Games, having battled Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, social and generalised anxiety, depression, and a chronic condition known as ulcerative colitis.
He persevered, despite initial thoughts of pulling out, and the APG experience became a significant one, as he overcame these challenges and realised what he truly enjoyed. In fact, as someone unable to join his contemporaries when they were engaged in physical activities at school, the Games’ theme of inclusiveness also stood out in particular for him.
Indeed, when asked how he hoped his efforts would contribute to the APG legacy, the self-taught IT expert said: “I doubt I can help the event as much as the event has helped me. But I’m definitely proud to be a part of the team helping to make it a success.”
Sharing that his depression had gotten “quite bad” at the end of last year and only eased up recently with the help of anti-depressants, he revealed: “I was quite lost then. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, nor did I know what I liked to do. But a part of me said that I had to do something. So I started off with things that I used to like, and that included IT.”
Zeyu decided to sign up for his APG role in the middle of this year, when he saw the Singapore ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee’s call for volunteers. While the training sessions had proven daunting due to his social anxiety, he eventually overcame his fears through a combination of medication and a large dose of tenacity.
“I felt that I had to do something to make myself get better, and this was it. Of course, the other volunteers have all been very nice. They’ve definitely played a part in helping me to feel more comfortable. I’ve made a few friends too,” he revealed.
“This experience has made me realise that nothing is really as scary as it seems. I think that it has helped my anxiety and self-esteem, especially since my job keying in the data was a very important and stressful one. I was surprised to find that I could actually do it!”
Certainly, watching the APG competitors give their all in the sporting arena has also been a form of inspiration to Zeyu. Noting that this was his first exposure to para sports, he said: “Even though I don’t do sports myself, I can appreciate the amount of effort that the athletes have been putting in. I have a great amount of respect for them. They’re strong and they pursue their passions.”
But make no mistake – the slight and delicate-looking teenager takes part in his version of “sport” too. A competitive gamer, Zeyu boasts accolades to his name, and is part of a team that had won three consecutive editions of a regional competition.
It was through video games that he had gotten more involved at school, helping out with the video gaming segment during one of his Junior College’s annual events.
“I’m trying to convince them to have something similar for next year’s orientation. I didn’t get to do a lot of the activities during my orientation because they were mostly physical. I felt quite left out then,” he expressed, adding that having a wider range of activities would always be useful in helping a community to better reach out to everyone.
“It’s just like the APG. The APG promotes the inclusion of a portion of society that is normally left out when it comes to sporting activities. Inclusiveness is very important to me, and that’s why the APG’s theme resonated a lot with my experience.”