Akram Ramadan Misrawi

YEAR 1 STUDENT
DIPLOMA IN MULTIMEDIA & INFOCOMM TECHNOLOGY
SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING

Walk into Nanyang Poly’s (NYP) Sports Hall on a typical Thursday afternoon, and you’ll likely see Akram Ramadan Misrawi playing badminton with his mates. Except, his friends are able-bodied, and Akram is returning volleys and saving smashes from his wheelchair.

“They don’t give chance! We play competitively,” laughs the 21-year-old engineering student when asked if his opponents make any sort of concessions for him.

Born with skeletal dysplasia, a genetic condition which affected the development of his legs and his hands, Akram has never walked before in his life. Yet, it hasn’t stopped the young man from being active.

“From an early age, I was zooming around in my wheelchair, and doing many activities – thanks to my parents who encouraged me. Badminton was just one of those activities,” explains Akram. The exercise is crucial for his range of motion and strength: “I depend totally on my arms and upper body strength for mobility. I move around at home without the wheelchair. I also get on and off my wheelchair, and transfer from wheelchair to the sports wheelchair, completely unaided.”

He’s actually so good at badminton that he’s a Paralympics hopeful, and trains under professional coaches, three times a week, three hours per session at the Yio Chu Kang Sports Centre. In fact, he has just returned from the 2017 Asian Youth Para Games, held in Dubai in December, and is currently training for the 2019 Asean Para Games in Philippines. His goal? To participate in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, in which wheelchair badminton will be featured for the first time.

He’s had to customise his grip on the racket, and swings and hits. Wrists sprains and shoulder muscle pulls are just par for the course. He says with a grin: “It’s all part and parcel of an athlete’s training.”

While able-bodied players are able to move around the court at will, Akram relies on his left arm to manoeuvre his wheels with speed and agility. His right arm delivers the power shots.

Initially, when Akram applied to play badminton for one of his modules (yes, at NYP, you can play a sporting game for the Fitness for Life module), administrators were taken aback. But NYP’s staff went to find out more about how they could work in Akram playing with able-bodied students. The rest, as they say, is history.

His Fitness For Life classmate, Joe Grospe says: “The first time I played with Akram, I was amazed by his skill and strength. It is inspiring to rally with him each week. He has such strong passion and spirit.”

For Akram, coming to NYP was amazing because of the caring environment he found himself in. The fact that staff went and found out more about his sport, and how it could be worked out was testament to how the poly cares about the students. Akram says: “We’re very chilled here at NYP. It feels like a big, friendly family, we work hard, play hard – there are hardly ‘airs’ among fellow students or lecturers.”

The easy camaraderie he’s formed with his peers is evident when a few of his mates show up unannounced to this interview. They say they’re there to “observe”. But it’s obvious from the teasing and banter that they want to keep him at ease and comfortable. One of them, Fadhli, quips with a cheeky chuckle: “Akram is like a brother to me. I’ve a twin brother, but I seem to be closer to Akram.” Another friend, Michelle, adds: “Akram is extremely considerate. For example, if he transfers himself to a chair in the lab, he’ll make sure his wheelchair does not block anyone’s way. And he does this by himself. He does not seek special treatment.”

Whenever he misses classes for competitions, his lecturers and mates ensure that he stays on track with lessons by helping him catch up. Akram says that their support means a lot to him. And it makes a massive difference, he smiles.

His personal mentor in NYP, Ms Joelle Kong notes that not only is Akram thriving at his game, he is also maintaining his game in his studies. He was part of the team that clinched prizes for their project work this semester. She observes: “His positive and can-do attitude is an inspiration and motivation for his friends and lecturers around him.”

As for Akram, he says he’s really glad he’s doing what he loves, in a place where he has the support he needs to excel: “As our poly’s tagline says right? Because We Can.”

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