Just another stretch!
And here he won the Gold Medal!
(Alarm clock)

I've been handicapped all my life but I've never wanted to be a burden to my family or society. I try to overcome my physique, telling myself to fight since I'm only handicapped physically but not mentally.

Paralympics Power of Determination

Pongsakorn Paeyo
Thai Wheelchair Racer

I'm Pongsakorn Paeyo, a Thai Wheelchair Racer, winner of 3 Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medals (Gold Medal Hat-Trick) and Tokyo Paralympics 2020 World Record Breaker.

I'm from Khon Kaen and I am a victim of Polio which I got as an infant. My dad passed away when I was 2 years old. My family was in a difficult situation as my mum was the sole breadwinner. She applied to get me into a regular school but the application was turned down as they didn't accept disabled kids.

At five, I enrolled in Sri Sangwan School in Khon Kaen as they admitted disabled students. The whole school was full of students with disabilities. There was no bullying as we all had a disability of some kind and were the same. After Sri Sangwan School, my friend and I continued to vocational college. After one term, I got into the National Team.

I started wheelchair racing when I was 12. That was when I was still in Sri Sangwan School in Khon Kaen. My teacher encouraged me to it. It was challenging, like competing with yourself. You need to control speed and stabilise your body. When I was at the vocational college, my teacher from Sri Sangwan asked if I would be interested in a race abroad. I then practiced with the Thai national team members for a month.

My first race was the Asian Para Games in South Korea. Then I started to participate in more races abroad. Before going to Brazil Paralympics, I was in Doha, for the World Championship where I won 2 silvers and 1 bronze. I became one of the world's top racers. At the Brazil Paralympics, I won 2 golds and 2 silvers from 100, 400, 800m and a 4x4 relay. I continued with my races until the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 which I claimed the world record for 400m race at 46.61 seconds.

My routine starts at 6 AM. I finish my personal errands at 6:30 AM, then start warming up for 10-15 minutes. This is up to each person. At 7:30 AM, the actual training begins. I cycle for 5,000m a day, only sprint. I will finish around 8:30 to 9:00 AM. After that, I rest and have breakfast. Some take a short nap, and some work on their equipment like gloves, racing wheelchairs. At 4 PM, we practice on course, a short one, mainly sprint. So we have time to warm up. We finish at around 5:30 or 6:00 PM.

Becoming a world champion or achieving the world record is not luck. Everything needs practice. For me, I have gone through a lot of training and have quite a lot of race experience.

5 Goals for Everyday Life

I have 5 goals taken from my experience for you all to try and adapt.

Be a Driving Force for Society

First is to not be a burden on your family, friends or society. You should try to be independent and generate as much benefit as possible for society.

I would like to think that I have never been a burden on my family. From the age of five, I left home to study in a boarding school, then a school for the disabled, then become a national athlete. I have done everything I can to take care of myself and my family.

Think Positively and Never Belittle Yourself

Second is to think positively and do not look down on or belittle yourself. My way of thinking positively is to not look at my life any differently to others. My friends have never bullied me or did something to hurt me. This makes me happy and I take this feeling everywhere I go.

I've become an optimistic person. There's nothing that will divert my determination. I've shown that even with my imperfect physique, I can still bring pride to the country. In the Tokyo Paralympics Games 2020, I won three golds and got the world record for the 400m.

Focus On What You Do

Third is with regard to thoughts. In a race, the time before the start is really stressful. When the starter says "On your mark", no one says anything, just listening for the sound of a gun. A foul would lead to disqualification.

If you only focus on always becoming No.1, you'll put too much pressure on yourself. If you can't achieve that, you'll be very sorry. So don't think too much. Instead, just do it. Train for the pride of the Thai national flag on your chest.

Win Over Yourself

Fourth, the worst enemy is yourself. If you can't win over yourself, you won't win over your competitor. I also have to compete with my own patience and many other things. It's a measuring rod of how far we can go.

Be Disciplined

Fifth is to be disciplined. This is crucial. An athlete without discipline will not be able to maintain their performance and physique, no matter how good they are. When a coach gives you a program, just follow it and train to the best of your abilities, to ensure that you won't make mistakes in races.

5 Key takeaways

Many things have contributed to shaping me. Coming from a poor family has given me a push to be patient and determined to become better. I've always wanted a world record to belong to a Thai person, under the Thai National Flag.

CI Talks - Stories That Spark Change