Too often when life throws you a curveball, you’re usually told to get back up and fight the good fight. For two time SEA Games gold medalist Kimbeley Yap, her challenge came when a car hit her off her bicycle while she was training for the 2015 SEA Games. That incident put her in and out of a coma for 8 days and in the hospital for a month. Kimbeley had been involved in sports all her life. Growing up, she participated in competitive swimming and cycling, which made her a notable figure in the sports industry.
Two years have past since her accident and she is now pursuing a career in personal and group trainings. She doesn’t have plans to return to competitive sports instead she is in the midst of compiling her story into a book. Kimbeley’s story is one of perseverance and courage when facing the unexpected. This is our conversation with her as she talks about recovering from the accident and her plans for the future.
When we came to film you the other day, it was actually your first time getting on a bike again after the accident. And today we’re here with you, and you’re swimming again after so long. How does it all feel?
It’s a very interesting feeling and it’s true when people say you will never lose your ability to swim even if you’ve not done it for a long time. I just needed to get my stamina back but other than that, it felt good.
Was there a moment when you felt nervous or afraid?
It would feel weird especially if you’re just coming out from an accident. Many would try to prove to themselves or to others that they can get back up immediately, but I didn’t feel the need to do that. I took as much time as I needed to recover and got to know myself a bit better, while finding out what I really want to do with my life. Ironically, I discovered that I no longer have that desire to get back on a bike. I’ve raced all my life and I don’t really want to do it anymore. I started working for myself and assisting my husband in his business; there is such a rewarding feeling to be able to help people and think about their needs instead of my own.
What have you learned about yourself during this time?
A lot of the time people would come up and tell me that I’ve helped them achieve something they never thought they could ever do. I used to think that I’m only getting paid to do a job, but I started to see people feeling so accomplished. I acknowledge that I’m good at what I do so I decided that this is what I’m going to pursue instead.
You've covered a whole lot during your time in competitive sports and now you’re a personal trainer. Was personal training always on your agenda?
I started working in Fitness First back in 2012. At that point in time, I was taking a break and trying to find other things to do. After a year, my coach asked me if I have decided on my next steps and I confessed that I quite enjoy the working life. In the beginning of 2014 the year of my accident, I was informed of the upcoming SEA Games in Singapore. I had ended my career as a cyclist but because this was a triathlon and I had won two gold medals previously, I decided that I’d like to go for it. I was quite confident and in addition to that, I had another year and a half to train. Then the accident happened.
I remember the day we heard the news of your accident. As with most accidents, especially if you’re an athlete, I’m sure that at some point it was very hard for you to feel enthusiastic about anything.
I was in a coma for about a week and I don’t quite remember what happened. What was especially difficult was when my dad brought a mirror to show me how I looked like. It was hard. I don’t mind my body getting smashed but my face... that's different. I tried to be as happy as I could while in the hospital but in all honesty, I actually felt really bad because of how my face looked. My husband would always encourage and remind me that scars will heal.
You were hospitalised for about a month. At some point when you were undergoing rehabilitation, did you feel discouraged?
I had wanted to escape from the hospital. I was already out of the ICU and I had no idea why they were keeping me there. I tested the bedrails to see if it would fold and it did! I wiggled myself out of bed but when I took the second step, I fell down because my leg was casted. The nurse saw me and she was like ‘ah moi nak pergi mana!’ and I lied and said I wanted to use the washroom. She escorted me back to my bed and asked me to go ahead and relieve myself on the bed. I was so confused but when I looked down, I realised I was wearing diapers. Funny as it was, it was quite embarrassing because the toilet had to come to me.
Kimbeley is one of the most down-to-earth person you will ever encounter. I love her cheerful personality, and being around her makes you feel like you’ve been friends for years. If there is one word I could use to describe Kimbeley, it would be ‘fearless’; not because she didn't encounter difficulties during her recovery, it’s her attitude as she was going through it. Too often people label it as "bad things happening to good people", but she has taught us that unexpected experiences can teach you something about yourself and we shouldn’t be so quick to wallow in self pity. Kimbeley has also shown us that it's alright to want to do something else altogether. She is dedicating her time to impacting the people around her and that says a lot about the person she’s become.