Feature

Lives of everyday superheroes

Meet three students who have battled illnesses with determination and perseverance to come out stronger than ever before. Here are the inspiring stories of Clement, Asher and Joan

By Chrystal Chan and Derek Rodriguez
Arise Aquaman

With his chiselled form, national athlete Clement Lim looks like any other champion swimmer. But what not many people know is that he has Ankylosing Spondylitis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the spine. A form of rheumatoid arthritis, it was the heart-breaking diagnosis that sports-loving Clement had to grapple with in his second year in the army back in 2013.

“I was crushed at first, but after finding out that Jay Chou also has it, and seeing how he managed to excel in his career despite that, I knew I could still do what I love,” he says. The former Singapore Sports School student keeps his condition under control with daily medication, but the pain is never completely gone.

His lowest point came in April 2014, when the pain got so bad he simply couldn’t get out of bed. He only managed to leave his bed two days later.

“I was extremely worried as I had to be in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games in July,” he explains.

Although not deterred, he decided not to risk it and committed himself to recovering fully before training again. Amazingly, at the Commonwealth Games, he set a new personal best in the 50m freestyle event.

Despite his multiple injuries – he also had surgery for both shoulders in 2012 – Clement pushed himself to the limit before the Southeast Asian Games last year, training even while on painkillers. It all paid off in the end. He clinched the gold medal in the 4x100 medley relay along with his teammates, a first for Singapore’s national team since 1991.

Currently on a hiatus from training, Clement plans to let his body rest so that he can be in top form when he plunges headlong into swimming again.

“With passion and a lot of hard work, I believe you can achieve anything you set your mind to,” he says.

Click to enlarge
PHOTOS: NURIA LING