By Alianna Tan
Sound plays a huge part in every athlete’s life especially during competitions — screaming fans, trash-talking opponents, the drumbeat of feet on bleachers, and all other kinds of noise. But, what if you can’t hear any of it? What if you can’t hear a coach’s instructions or your teammates calling you that it’s already your turn? What if you live in a world with little or no sound? This is how it’s like and how it has been for Lester Lagos, a multi-awarded deaf triathlete and elite fitness coach who continuously proves that a disability cannot put a good athlete down.
Lester was born with the ability to hear, but at the age of 5 has become deaf after an unknown cause. Living and growing up in Singapore for two decades, his supportive parents sent him to Canossian School for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing where his amazing teachers helped him through language therapy along with his classmates who have the same disability.
His hearing loss improved from severe to profound after graduating from primary school, and so he was sent to a regular school during his secondary years. Being new to the hearing world, he struggled really hard, but the school had given him opportunity to learn many new things such as patience and the value of good communication. Learning how to speak and read lips are the biggest challenges he had to conquer – which he is still conquering as of today – but all these challenges just make him a better person.
The love for sports started as early as primary school days, when he became part of the swimming team – it’s like swimming is really an innate skill he had as a child. Though at first, his main reason for joining was just to improve mental health, concentration and increase self-esteem, it changed as years went by. His passion for sports grew deeper and deeper as he ventured into multi-sports such as triathlon and open water events, where he bagged several awards throughout the years. This paved the way for him to start coaching co-deaf athletes through his own sports training development program to help them overcome the disability as athletes. Later on, he expanded his coaching career through teaching other fitness classes such as bootcamp, rowing, and anti-gravity yoga.
“I may not be able to hear well but I can hear the roar for victory inside me, and I am lucky and blessed to have a very supportive family to keep me going. Sports taught me the value of teamwork, leadership, and coaching – this is where I gained direction for my future goals and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”.
However, though his competence as an athlete and a trainer is already justified by his awards and superb race performances, coaching world wasn’t that easy to Lester at first. He had to master understanding what his students say despite hearing difficulty and also make sure he’s understood, so he made use of hearing aids and sign language as tools to communicate.
“Being an instructor of different sports and fitness classes, I meet a lot of students from different walks of life and it can’t be avoided for some of them to judge me and question my ability to coach because of my deafness. However, I just turn that into a motivation for me to give my 101% in every class I conduct so I can prove that disability doesn’t make you less of a coach”, he recalled.
Lester continuous to become a sought-after fitness and sports instructor, and to-date, he has already trained a number of famous public figures. Indeed, he has proven that disability is not a hindrance when you put your mind and soul into what you do. Losing his hearing has given him a positive outlook in life because he learned to take something so negative and allow positive things to come from it.
“You need to be proud of what makes you who you are. You can’t put yourself down for something that makes you different. In my case, it is not about hearing; it is about going.”