Asean Para Games 2017

Asean Para Games: A most important moment for gold medallist Jason Chee

Para-table tennis player Jason Chee after beating Thailand's Thirayu Chueawong 11-8, 11-2, 12-10 yesterday in the men's individual Class 2 event of the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Para-table tennis player Jason Chee after beating Thailand's Thirayu Chueawong 11-8, 11-2, 12-10 yesterday in the men's individual Class 2 event of the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO: FOO TEE FOK/SPORT SINGAPORE

Paddler Chee says late mother would have been proud of his first APG individual gold

Jason Chee has no legs, no left arm, is missing one finger and parts of two other fingers on his right hand and has only one eye. Yet a man who has lost so much still finds a way to win.

Yesterday, the courageous 34-year-old finally won the medal he had been longing for when he clinched his first individual gold in the men's singles Class 2 event at the Kuala Lumpur Asean Para Games. One might say he has an unbeatable spirit.

"Winning this gold was the most important moment for me. I have waited so long to win the gold," said Chee, who competes in a wheelchair, as do all paddlers in classes 1-5. The higher the number, the greater the level of mobility.

Despite the loss of his eye, he was still in the same classification - which only takes into account the player's range of movement - as he was at the 2015 APG in Singapore.

But it was almost deja vu for Chee as he was two points away from losing to Thailand's Thinathet Natthawut, who denied him the gold medal when they met two years ago.

Chee let slip a two-game lead and trailed 2-6 and then 7-9 in the final game of their round-robin match yesterday morning. But he roared back to win that match 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 5-11, 11-9, his third of four round-robin ties.

INDOMITABLE SPIRIT

I'm a fighter and I never give up - that's my strength and that's what I have within me.

JASON CHEE, after finishing undefeated in the five-player round-robin event.

 

Chee had earlier beaten Singapore's Eric Ting (11-6, 11-8, 11-5) and Darren Chua (11-4, 11-7, 11-6) and then secured gold when he beat Thailand's Thirayu Chueawong 11-8, 11-2, 12-10.

After the final point, he tossed his bat and punched the air as he raised his right arm in triumph.

Talking about the nerve-racking moment against Thinathet, Chee said: "I told myself to stay calm and composed and not to be nervous as the match was not over yet. I had to be steady, take it one point at a time and try to fight back.

"I'm a fighter and I never give up - that's my strength and that's what I have within me."

Indeed, he has. Just four months ago, after all, he was struggling to hit routine shots. He had lost some peripheral vision and depth perception, following surgery to remove his right eye after he was diagnosed with choroidal melanoma, a cancer of the eye.

The navy serviceman had lost his legs, left arm and suffered the injuries to his right hand in an accident aboard a Republic of Singapore Navy warship in 2012.

But he has remained optimistic. As he said: "I've lost a lot of things and been through a lot of pain, but I have to fight on and remain optimistic.

"That was what my mum used to always tell me.

"In this lifetime, you face many difficulties and it is going to be tough, but you have to overcome them and stay positive."

Chee also credited his coaches Chia Chong Boon and Tan Kai Kok and his colleagues from 191 Squadron.

His mother, Chua Ah Lek, died of kidney failure in 2011 at 65, yet Chee said he could sense her presence and support during the competition.

"I have made her proud," he said. "My mum would be happy."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2017, with the headline 'A most important moment'. Print Edition | Subscribe