BEING vision-impaired has not stopped SMK St John Upper Six student Yeoh Kok Soon from shining academically as well as in the sports arena.
On the contrary, it made Kok Soon, 21, even more determined to excel. And this he certainly did, as proven when he bagged the Johannian of the Year 2004 award recently.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Kok Soon is active in both sports and academics. He participated in the Southeast Asian Paralympics in Vietnam last December, and brought home the gold medal in the 200 metres and the bronze medal in the 400 metres event respectively.
Kok Soon, who hails from Penang, says that he lives by the motto that one should never use a disability as an excuse for not doing something. He feels that nothing is impossible and that where there is a will, there is a way to succeed.
Besides scoring eight As in his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) two years ago, he was also named the Best Special Education Student in 2002.
He has constantly been top of the form during his secondary school years, both when he was in Penang and when he studied at SMK St John in Kuala Lumpur. When he was in Lower and Upper Six, he scored the best results in Economics, History and Commerce.
It was thus no surprise to anyone when he was named Johannian of the Year, an award given to the best all-round student who excels in studies, sports, and co-curricular activities.
Amid thunderous applause and standing ovation from his schoolmates, Kok Soon received the award from Education Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein at the school's Awards Day ceremony.
The tradition of hosting an Awards Day was started at the school in 1976 under the leadership of the principal of that time, Brother Joseph Yeoh.
Today, it has become an annual event to honour and give recognition to Johannians who have performed well academically and actively participated and displayed excellence in co-curricular activities.
Speaking after the ceremony, Kok Soon explained how he had felt when he realised that he was losing his sight at the age of 14.
“I was sad for a week. But then I realised that there were many people out there who were actually worse off than myself, so I decided to accept the inevitable, and to learn to be independent,” he said.
He later enrolled at St Nicholas' Home for the Blind in Penang where he learnt braille.
“It was tough, trying to pick up braille at first but I soon got used to it.
“Later, I enrolled at SMK Haji Zainal Abidin.”
Upon completing his SPM in Penang, he moved to Kuala Lumpur where he became a student in the arts stream at SMK St John.
“I want to thank my teachers and friends at St John's who have been very helpful and kind to me, especially my resource teacher who was ready and willing to convert study notes into braille,” he said, adding that he studied in the same classes as his sighted classmates.
Kok Soon dreams of becoming either a businessman, an economist or an educator.
His former school teacher, Paulynn Soon, who was present at the awards ceremony, described him as a very determined person.
“It wasn't easy for him to lose his sight but he has come a long way indeed. In fact, I am really proud of how far he has come,” she said.
Also present at the ceremony was his former sports coach from Penang, D Narayanasamy.
“After losing his sight, Yeoh could no longer play basketball so I started to coach him in running events instead.
“When we trained for any preliminary event, I would use a whistle but during an actual race, he would run with a guide runner.
“What he would do was to hold onto one end of a special string while the guide runner held on to the other end,” he said.
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