20/01/2022 11:28 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 -- From a blaze of gold to shreds of paper - it’s not what it seems as former national para swimmer Koh Lee Peng said it was a personal choice to sell knick-knacks and tissue packs so she can live independently without leaning on others like a crutch.

The winner of seven ASEAN Para Games (APG) gold medals who is wheelchair-bound asked the public and netizens to stop making baseless assumptions without knowing the real story, though she admitted to receiving assistance from several official channels before.

“Some (para athletes) have accepted offers to become coaches, but I don't want to because my time has passed. I have not been cast aside to fend for myself or have no home of my own, it’s just that I don't want to disturb my siblings because they already have their own families.

“I am used to working in factories and so on, I no longer want to work with other people, what more if the people with disabilities (PwD) themselves do not understand the plight of another PwD. I really want to start my own business and I am not ashamed of this honest way of earning a living,” she said when met by reporters in the Bukit Bintang area today.

She also pleaded with sympathisers not to distress her with false pretenses to help or make empty promises, besides asking not to be treated rudely when she is eking out an honest living in public areas.

Earlier, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker and National Athletes Welfare Foundation (YAKEB) chairman Datuk Noorul Ariffin Abdul Majeed had visited and presented some cash aid and hamper in conjunction with the Chinese New Year to Lee Peng.

Prior to that, it had gone viral on social media and also reported in the media that Lee Peng, the winner of seven gold and three silver medals at the APG from 2001-2005, had seemingly been dumped from her glory days and had to sell tissues in the Bukit Bintang area for her survival.

The real picture to emerge came from Ti who explained that Lee Peng was only running her tissue business in the capital while accompanying a friend to attend a course at a water filter company for three weeks here and would return to Bukit Mertajam, Penang tomorrow (Friday) once the course ended.

“She came here with her friend (known as Andrew) to follow the course and this business is at her own will without expecting a burst of sympathy. They both have a registered company to help eight other disabled people under them.

“So to say the government does not help and care about her is not true at all. We also offered opportunities to her previously through YAKEB, but she chose to be independent.

"(It’s just that) When this issue went viral, she (Lee Peng) became unhappy and felt humiliated, she hopes the public understands and respects her choice," he said.


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