Philip Chew Tiong Beng, 39, won a silver medal at the recent Special Olympics Singapore National Games, beating much younger competitors.
We admire those far removed from us—the rock star, the billionaire philanthropist, the Olympian. But sometimes, it’s those who are nearest and most familiar to us who blaze a trail for others to follow.
Mention the name “Philip” to any City Harvest member who has been around since the mid-’90s when the church was located at the old Hollywood Theatre in Tanjong Katong, and most will remember a tall, lanky gentleman with curly hair wearing a jacket, chatting with someone outside McDonald’s or KFC and showing them his drawings.
In early June, Philip Chew came in second place in the 400-meter race in the 8th Special Olympics Singapore National Games.
Held every four years, the Games are dedicated to empowering persons with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and athletic competition.
Chew was one of the more than 600 athletes competing across six sports including swimming, athletics and badminton. Almost 1,500 volunteer coaches and helpers also turned up to render support.
The win was all the more inspiring because Chew was up against younger athletes, mostly in their teens and 20s.
“I was confident I could win,” said Chew in Mandarin. “I know God is with me. I never worry.”
Ironically, Chew was never particularly interested in running. He only started running recreationally when he moved to Touch Ubi Hostel, a hostel that offers a stay-in residential program for adults with mild intellectual disabilities.
Chew’s talent on the tracks was discovered when his hostel leader observed him running around the premises. He promptly signed him up for the Games in February, which gave him only four months to train.
Chew would train every Monday with a few other hostel mates. He added that at times it was tiring to go for training after his work as an office cleaner, which can be quite strenuous. “But never mind. I just continued,” says the cool-headed Chew.
Unwavering determination aside, he also drew support from those around him. “My pastor and church friends always encouraged me. My hostel mates also helped me. I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
When one of his church mentors, zone supervisor Lin Jun Xian, found out about his participation in the competition, he bought Chew his first ever pair of running shoes. “Before that, I just ran with my everyday shoes,” says Chew matter-of-factly.
The win was a pleasant surprise for Chew’s cell group leader from N498, information security consultant Cordelia Chee, 37 as he did not share with her what he was preparing for. “He only told me that he had to run and it was very tiring. I thought it was just part of his recreational program until his hostel called up to tell me,” she recalls.
“But no matter how tired he is, he always comes for cell group meetings and church services. He is always faithful. We’re all very excited about his win and are inspired to never give up,” beams Chee.