He lived to take on Asia's best


Champ, who cheated death in 1989, to try for a gold medal

By Marc Lim

IN MALAY, 'wira' means a warrior hero. Singapore bodybuilder Nor Perwira Jaya Rahmat will always be one in a very special way, even if he fails to win a gold medal at the Asian Games in Busan next week.

For, he already has a gold medal just for being alive.

He met with an accident in 1989 that would have killed most men - a car smashing into his motorcycle from the side.

It put Perwira into an instant coma and left him with C2-5 cervical damage, a near-fatal neck and spine injury.

By the time medical help arrived, he had fluid coming out of his ears and blood flowing freely from his nose.

The doctors gave him only a 40 per cent chance of living.

His pillion rider, sister Nor Seha, fractured her rib cage and spinal cord. Now, 13 years after that April night, she walks with a permanent hunch.

Despite the odds, Perwira battled his way back from the brink of death.

'I was admitted to hospital in April but woke up only in May,' said the 33-year-old national bodybuilder.

'Even then, the doctors said that I would probably be paralysed. And I feared the worst when I could not feel my legs.'

He spent the next nine months in rehabilitation.

'Because of my injury, my head had to be in a fixed position. I could not move it at all,' he said.

'I would have conversations with the other patients around me, but I could not see them.'

He was finally discharged in December 1989 and, as part of his rehabilitation, started going to the gym.

He said: 'My brothers Rano and Rino were just taking up bodybuilding, so I would follow them for their workouts.' Perwira started taking part in bodybuilding competitions in 1993, but never really took it up seriously because of business commitments.

He finally found his satay stall too difficult to manage and took a job as a gym instructor at California Fitness Centre in 1997.

Only a year later, he won his first major crowns - the bantam-weight and the overall title at the 1998 National Championships.

He has since added the 2001 Asian Championships bantam-weight title and this year's South-east Asian lightweight title to his growing trophy cabinet.

If there is one person he credits for his amazing recovery, it is his South Korean wife, Mira Park.

He said: 'I met her while I was recovering from my injuries. She was a volunteer with a mission and heard of my plight.

'She has been the one encouraging me all this while, even in bodybuilding.'

He dreams of being a world champion but would first like a gold in the lightweight category at the Asian Games.

'My wife cannot be there. But my in-laws will be there, so at least I have some 'home' support,' he said.

Copyright @ 2002 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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"It was once written "To thine own self be true". But how do we know who we really are? Every man must confront the monster within himself, if he is ever to find peace without. .." Outer Limits(Monster)