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Singapore’s Paralympic Superman

Commonwealth Point of Light 63. William Tan

Dr William Tan, representing Singapore, is a world record holding Paralympian who has overcome personal adversity to complete extreme physical challenges, raising $18 million for charitable causes.

Dr William Tan

Dr Tan, who contracted polio at the age of two and was paralysed from the waist down, has not let his disability or recent leukaemia diagnosis get in the way of his record-breaking fundraising. In 2007, he became the first person in the world to accomplish a North Pole marathon in a wheelchair despite extreme weather conditions. Since then he has taken part in over 100 wheelchair marathons and is the fastest person to have completed seven marathons across seven continents in 26 days. In 2014 and 2015, he hand-cycled from London to Paris over a distance of 500 km in four days and this year he competed in his final ultramarathon, hand cycling for 31 hours. Dr Tan’s fundraising has supported a range of charities including ‘Polioplus’, which aims to eradicate polio, ‘Operation Smile’, which provides free surgery for children born with cleft lips and the ‘Bizlink Centre’, which helps disabled people living in Singapore to access training and employment.

Dr Tan received his award from Scott Wightman, UK High Commissioner to Singapore as part of the High Commission’s annual Chevening Scholarship and Singapore Commonwealth Fellowship in Innovation awards evening.

Dr William Tan said:

 “Having survived Stage 4 leukaemia, I practise medicine and race marathons very differently now. My bucket list is filled with marathon causes rather than marathon courses. I am very honoured to receive the Commonwealth Points of Light Award which certainly invigorates me to be a shining example and a light to the needs of humanity”.

 Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner to Singapore said:

 “William is not someone to let adversity stand in his way or detract him from his passion for helping others, be it the loss of the use of his legs as a small child or being told in 2009 that he had stage 4 leukaemia. He has raced wheelchair marathons on every continent, including Antarctica, set racing records and competed in the Paralympics and Commonwealth Games. William has though always been mindful of how he can use his life to help others, becoming a medical doctor, an inspirational speaker and raising millions of dollars for charities.  

“William’s actions have challenged many people’s perceptions of disability. It was significant that the Leaders of the Commonwealth nations agreed to work towards creating societies that are fully inclusive of disabled people at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April of this year.  William shows us why this is so important.”

Watch William receiving his award:

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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