In a world where hardships test the limits of our determination, some exceptional individuals rise above challenges. Among them, Singaporean Paralympian, William Tan, stands firmly with a fantastic feat by becoming the first athlete to complete World Marathon Challenge in a wheelchair on February 6, 2023.
The World Marathon Challenge is an annual physical challenge to run 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days, spread across various locations, including Antarctica, South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Brazil, and the United States, starting on January 31 and concluding on February 6, every year.
William Tan’s Early Life: Seeds of Persistence
- Born in 1957 in a small village in Singapore, William Tan’s journey began from a humble background.
- At the tender age of two, William was diagnosed with polio when he faced a future in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.
- Kindergarten drop-out, Tan went on to be the top student at Selegie Primary School.
- He attended Raffles Institution on a Ministry of Education Scholarship for Secondary and Junior College education.
- Fuelled with an intense pursuit of education, William majored in Life Sciences at the National University of Singapore.
William Tan’s Journey in the Field of Medicine
William Tan’s early life and career as a physician and researcher proved his inner commitment to humanity. From an early age, he focused on moving ahead and not limiting his horizons to his disability.
- William joined the Civil Service after graduation in 1980 to follow his ideology.
- William graduated with a First Class Honours in Physiology from Harvard University as a Fulbright Scholar in 1989.
- In 2002, he was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to pursue a second master’s degree in social work and social policy from the University of Oxford.
- Tan obtained an MBBS degree from Newcastle University and earned a doctorate of philosophy in neuroscience from the University of Auckland.
- Inspired to advance in his career, William received training at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in the USA.
William Tan’s Awards and Honours
When the world saw a wheelchair as a limitation, William saw it as a vehicle for limitless opportunity. William Tan’s sports career was to prove himself and challenge society’s perception of disability. From wheelchair marathons to triathlons, his strong determination led him to the peak of paralympic excellence, where he proudly represents Singapore.
- The Asian-Pacific Games triple gold medallist, William, competed in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, the World Games, and the Commonwealth Games.
- He holds six endurance marathon world records, including the “Fastest time to complete 3 Marathons in 3 Consecutive Days in 3 Countries”.
- He has skydived, water-skied, sailed, and even climbed a 14-story building to raise money for charity.
- In 2007, Dr. Tan became the first person in the world to accomplish a marathon in a wheelchair at the North Pole in 21 hours and 10 minutes despite overwhelming obstacles and extreme conditions of –25 degrees Celsius to raise funds for Global Flying Hospitals.
- In 2014 and 2015, he hand-cycled from London to Paris over 500 km in four days to raise funds for lymphoma and leukemia research in the USA, UK, New Zealand, and Singapore.
William Tan’s Battle with Cancer
In 2009, Dr. Tan received a diagnosis of Stage 4 leukemia. However, he refused to let this setback defeat him and instead transformed it into an opportunity. Over six months, Tan had intensive chemotherapy and ultimately underwent a bone marrow transplant. Throughout this challenging journey, he supported cancer patients who couldn’t afford cancer treatment costs in Singapore.
On September 26, 2010, he achieved his personal best time in para-cycling at the Berlin Marathon. Just one year after Tan’s life-saving transplant, he completed two back-to-back full marathons, crossing his finishing times before he had leukemia.
William Tan’s Impact Goes Beyond Boundaries
William Tan’s circumference extends beyond the sectors of medicine and athletics. With his magnetic charisma and optimism, he wins people’s hearts worldwide. To add one more designation to his introduction: William Tan, a motivational speaker, conducts motivational sessions for many individuals encouraging them to rewrite their destinies. William Tan’s LinkedIn appearance has increased after his most significant career achievement.
Tan’s extraordinary journey reminds people that the human spirit knows no boundaries. From his humble beginnings as a polio-stricken child to becoming an unbeatable athlete, accomplished physician, and influential advocate, he showcases the limitless power of perseverance.