Teen triathlete Isaac won’t let autism shatter his dream

PETALING JAYA: Autism is not a stumbling block in triathlete Isaac Tan Zhen Wei’s (pic) path to achieve his long term goal - competing in a world level championship.

The 17-year-old is nervous but excited to compete with other professional athletes at his first Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next Friday.

When Isaac was three, he was diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum.

It used to be challenging for him to control his muscles and to communicate with people around him but he is getting better as he has started to build confidence.

“He used to face some challenges in controlling his muscles, had low self-esteem and it was difficult for me to communicate with him,’’ said coach Albert Tan Yi Wey.

“Now, he is getting better as he dares to approach people to say hi and communication with him has become easier.

“He has gained a lot of confidence since he started winning races and have developed muscles like in the abs, arms and legs.”

Being a young participant in the Games, Albert said Isaac will face stiff competition from all athletes in Birmingham as they are professionals.

“I think it will be tough for Isaac as he is only 17 and top countries like England, Scotland, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will usually send the maximum number of professional athletes which is three each for men and women,” he said.

If Isaac wants to meet his coach’s expectation, he will have to complete the triathlon event which consists of a 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run before 1’01:00, his personal best.

He has been working hard, training consistently and improving to prepare himself.

His current training hours are four to five hours per day compared to the previous three to four hours as he had to attend school.

“His preparations are going smoothly and his performance during training is getting better,’’ said Albert.

Isaac will leave for England tomorrow.

Meanwhile, another triathlete Chong Xian Hao’s status in the team is still pending as he is still recovering from an elbow injury.

“He’s getting better but it still affects his swim training, which is very important in triathlon.

“The association’s president has sent the report to the Olympic Council of Malaysia and we’re waiting for further notice,” said Albert.

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