Jason Chee

Accident, cancer - nothing can keep para-athlete down

​Singaporean of the Year nominee Jason Chee shares how he felt holding a table tennis bat in his right hand after his accident and his journey to playing the sport.
Navy serviceman Jason Chee says he hopes to inspire others.
Navy serviceman Jason Chee says he hopes to inspire others.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Every now and then, Jason Chee, 34, gets asked: "Just how do you do it?"

"A lot of people ask, why are you so determined, despite losing so many things?" said Chee, who lost both his legs, left arm and three fingers on his right hand, after a horrific naval accident in 2012 when he was caught between a motorised winch and a berthing rope.

"I just tell them, we only live once. We have to fight on."

The navy serviceman and national para-athlete has spent the past five years soldiering on in the face of major setbacks.

After the accident, he spent 14 months in rehabilitation and about a year learning to stand and walk.

He not only returned to work within 18 months of the accident, but also set himself the goal of representing Singapore in para-sports.

Picking up table tennis, Chee made his Singapore debut in the Asean Para Games (APG) in 2015, and won a silver.

He was training for this year's APG when he was diagnosed with cancer of the right eye and was told that he had to have surgery to remove it.

Just four months later in September, he was crowned champion in the men's singles Class 2 at the Kuala Lumpur games.

He said: "Things happened to me that I can't change, but life still goes on."

Chee, an only child, shares a three-room flat in Shunfu with his 75-year-old father and a domestic helper. He gets around on a motorised wheelchair, and uses prosthetic legs for shorter distances.

He trains twice a week, has a desk job as a training specialist at Changi Naval Base, and juggles work with night classes at the Singapore University of Social Sciences where he is pursuing a mathematics degree.

He credits his late mother for teaching him to be an "upright, positive person", and also looks to motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born with no arms or legs, as well as paralympic swimmers Theresa Goh and Yip Pin Xiu as sources of inspiration.

He hopes to inspire people with his life story, so that "regardless of their age, gender or disability, (they will) come out from the dark and live life happily".

Toh Wen Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Accident, cancer - nothing can keep para-athlete down'. Print Edition | Subscribe