Daniel Lee’s Inspiring Tale Of Grit And Determination
At the tender age of three, Daniel Lee was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Type 1) also known as ‘brittle bone disease’. Basically, it is an incurable condition that makes him vulnerable and even the slightest fall could damage his bones permanently – “When I turned two, I started to fall down frequently and often fractured my leg, sometimes up to a few fractures a year.”
“At first mom was worried, so I seldom got out of the house. It wasn’t until I started school that I began to go out.”
Unfortunately, he lost his ability to walk permanently due to a fall he had when he was three. His mother had to carry him around until he was ten because they couldn’t afford a wheelchair. Daniel recalls his first day of class when he was nine – “I can still picture the looks I got from people, and hear the whispers going back-and-forth between my young classmates as she carried me towards my seat.”
However, it didn’t end there. He was also given the nickname ‘crippled boy’ and was made fun of in front of the entire class. “For a boy – at that age- to hear his peers laughing at him and degrading him in class was a pain that was beyond imagination.”
“My self-worth and confidence was shattered as I could not fight back or defend myself.”
Fortunately, Daniel eventually developed self-confidence by using criticisms thrown at him as motivation. Fast forward to the present, he is not only a inspirational speaker but also currently training as a Paralympic wheelchair racer. His goal is to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games.
Daniel is currently in Jakarta, training for a sport leadership programme. Despite his tight schedule, we had the opportunity to catch up with him.
Here’s a rundown of the interview!
1. You have come a long way. Despite your condition, you have overcome various hardships and achieved incredible success. How do you stay positive and motivated in achieving your goals?
First, I had the full love and support of my parents. I knew very well that I was loved and my parents kept encouraging me to be the best that I could be, never allowing me to compare myself to others. That helped me build principles in life that are vital to the goals I’m pursuing today.
2. Speaking of goals, you dream of qualifying for the Paralympics games. How is that journey coming along?
I resigned from my full time job 2 years ago to pursue sports. I’ve been training on my own these past two years with the goal of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. It has not been an easy journey because there are no wheelchair racing coaches in Malaysia.
Other challenges are in the form of financial constraints as well as a lack of resources and support for the sport of wheelchair racing in Malaysia, as I am one of the very few athletes pursuing this sport.
However, I’m progressing one step at a time, acquiring the resources I need, seeking for a racing coach overseas, etc. It helps a lot that I have plenty of support from friends and family.
3. Considering the amount of leadership talks you have given, has anyone come forth to share their personal stories with you or expressed their gratitude?
Yes, I’ve had people come up to me with their personal stories. I’ve been more blessed by the stories they share about their experiences, and I get inspired every time I have the privilege to hear stories of how people overcome challenges in their life to become better versions of themselves.
4. Do you have any advice for young disabled people?
My advice to young disabled people will be the same as to any young person. Strive to be the best that you can be. There is no need to compare yourself to others, although it is good to have people around you that can challenge you to be better.
Each one of us has a God-given potential to make a difference in the world. So, never give up in the face of challenges, but find the strength to overcome them because you can be an inspiration to others to fulfill their potential as well.
5. In your opinion, how do you think Malaysia can become more disabled-friendly?
The first step is better communication. There needs to be more dialogue with the community that is affected by disability and accessibility issues. Next, we need to have more compassion and do what is necessary to make sure better accessibility for all is a priority.
6. Finally, what is in store for Daniel Lee in the near future?
I plan to continue training and represent Malaysia in the Paralympic Games. I also plan to be more involved in making a difference in the community when it comes to inclusion for all. No doubt, I love to have the opportunity to share and speak to as many people as I can and inspire them to fulfill their potential in life.
Watch the clip below to follow Daniel Lee’s journey.
*Featured image sourced from Instagram/Daniel Lee -pushtoinspire