Naval accident survivor to represent Singapore in table tennis at Asean Para Games

Chee, who lost his legs and arm in a 2012 accident, doing strength training at Thye Hua Kwan Hospital. ''Sport is a form of rehabilitation,'' he says. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Chee, who lost his legs and arm in a 2012 accident, doing strength training at Thye Hua Kwan Hospital. ''Sport is a form of rehabilitation,'' he says. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

He might no longer be on a ship, but naval accident survivor Jason Chee is still on a voyage.

Now armed with a table-tennis bat, his coordinates have been set for next week's Asean Para Games in Myanmar.

It has been a year since the Dec 10, 2012, accident on board the RSS Endeavour claimed both his legs and his left arm, but it clearly did not rob the 30-year-old of his zest for life.

Said the Republic of Singapore Navy serviceman: "The most important thing is that I want to go on with my life. Any negative thoughts will become a psychological problem.

"Sport is a form of rehabilitation. It can remove your negative thoughts, to become positive."

Chee, who will be part of Singapore's 52-strong athlete contingent at the Jan 14 to 20 Games in Naypyidaw, is already dreaming of representing the nation at the Paralympics.

Only a year ago, he was caught between a motorised winch and a berthing rope and almost lost his life. Lying unconscious for two weeks, he awoke on Christmas Eve.

Four months later, with his spirit unbroken, this son of a retired vegetable seller donned his uniform and posted a picture of himself saluting on Facebook.

Now, with only two functioning fingers - his index and middle ones - Chee has renewed his love for a sport he once played competitively in Westlake Primary School.

Three times a week for the past six months, he has trained with three-time SEA Games champion Chia Chong Boon, 62, and has never missed a session.

Table tennis is many things to him. It is a distraction, it alleviates boredom, and it gives him purpose. Said his father Chee Kwok Chor, 72: "He is happy. He has nothing to do at home, and it can get boring. He never postpones his training."

The strength that feeds the younger Chee's enthusiasm for both sport and life, is drawn from his late mother Chua Ah Lek. Although she died at 65 from kidney failure two years ago, the navy man still feels connected to her.

He said: "I dream of her and I talk to her every day and tell her what I have done, what I have succeeded in. So whenever I wake up, I start afresh."

He remembers that his mother's last words to him, long before his accident, were "not to give up. Be strong. Be determined".

They proved to be almost prophetic, and it is these words that carry Chee through his daily struggles.

Having been placed under the media spotlight since his accident, the paddler now sees himself as a vehicle of hope to others. The chirpy resident of Thye Hua Kwan Hospital patrols the halls like a nurse on duty, chatting and encouraging patients.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Said nurse Thavamani Rajoo, 51: "He is a really friendly chap and he is very positive. He likes to cheer fellow patients and tries to motivate them."

Chee, a former weapons systems supervisor, is today his own captain on an expedition to recovery. Other passengers are welcome on board.

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