Gemma Rose Foo, 20-year-old Para-Equestrian, is participating in the Rio 2016 Paralympics with her horse Cassis Royal.
Gemma was born prematurely at 24 weeks, who was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Gemma was introduced to horses as part of her physical therapy at age eight. Riding horses help with her balance and coordination. She would be simulating walking by synchronizing her movements with the horse.
This is her second Paralympics game. Her debut was back in 2012 when she joined London Paralympics.
“It definitely helped me gain self-esteem because it improved my balance and coordination. It also made me realize I was good at something,” she said.
Gemma has completed her individual Championship Test-Grade Ia on 15 September (Singapore time), against 25 athletes, one of which is also Singaporean Para-equestrian rider Laurentia Tan, 37 who happens to be her role model. She also competed in the team competition with Tan.
Although Gemma did not manage to proceed to the finals of the individual Championship but she surely has learnt a lot from this year’s experience and a step closer to the achievements of her role model.
In a series of questions by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Gemma said that she is not giving up on her dream to compete in Rio 2016.
MCCY: Did you ever dream about being in the Paralympics?
Gemma: I never thought that I’d make it to the Paralympics. But when this incredible opportunity arose, I trained hard to get to where I am. This year was full of trials as I had an accident earlier this year in March when I fell off my horse. I went through an emergency surgery due to my spleen rupturing as a result of the accident. In June, I was cleared for riding after the minimum recovery period of 3 months and managed to compete in one competition before the upcoming Paralympics.
MCCY: What is your daily training schedule for the Paralympics like?
Gemma: I always get my exercise and stretches done before my training as I get really stiff at times due to my disability. We usually have 2 or 3 training sessions a day for about 45mins. We practice and improve on our accuracy and riding skills.
MCCY: Do you have any superstitions or lucky rituals you do before a competition?
Gemma: I’m quite a spiritual person and always say a quick prayer before training and competitions.
MCCY: Besides the competition proper, what else are you looking forward to at the Rio 2016 Games?
Gemma: I’m looking forward to meeting fellow Paralympians from all over the world and am proud to represent Singapore in Rio 2016!