Asean Para Games: Jason Chee delivers on promise

Navy man winning his three matches key to S'pore bagging first APG table tennis gold

Jason Chee (left) and Aaron Yeo combining splendidly during their doubles win. They bounced back from two games down to beat their Thai rivals and give Singapore a 2-1 lead.
Jason Chee (left) and Aaron Yeo combining splendidly during their doubles win. They bounced back from two games down to beat their Thai rivals and give Singapore a 2-1 lead. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

With great joy, Jason Chee raised his right - and only - hand and saluted the screaming crowd as he savoured an unforgettable night for para-table tennis in Singapore.

Never before had the country won a gold at the Asean Para Games, with five bronze medals at last year's edition the only silverware the Table Tennis Association for the Disabled Singapore (TTADS) could boast of.

That was rectified last night when Chee delivered on his pre-tournament promise of an SG50 gold by winning all three of his matches to lead the men's team to a 3-1 victory over Thailand.

Said the navy serviceman, who lost his legs and left arm in a ship accident in 2012: "This is the greatest achievement of my sports career.

"I started to play table tennis on a wheelchair in June 2013 and wanted to get a gold medal for my life. It was not an easy fight but I achieved that today. It feels awesome."

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  • Table tennis bronzes were all Singapore won before their first gold yesterday

With only two teams involved in the classification T1-2 contest, the visitors had seized the initiative at the OCBC Arena by taking the opening singles as Eric Ting fell 7-11, 10-12, 5-11 to Natthawut Thinathet.

Chee drew the Republic level with an 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 win over Nipon Theptoranee. The crowd at the near-capacity 855-seater Hall 1 - who included Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong - sensed a revival on the cards.

As the cheers got louder, the fightback became more palpable when Chee and team-mate Aaron Yeo recovered from a two-game deficit to defeat Nipon and Natthawut 7-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 to give the hosts the lead.

Said Yeo, 36, who is a tetraplegic and making his APG debut: "That was the turning point in the match.

"I was a bit nervous at the start and played poorly. But Jason is more experienced and he calmed me down and refused to give up."

The new partnership was a tactical move by national coach Chia Chong Boon, a four-time SEA Games gold medallist.

He picked Yeo ahead of Chee's regular doubles partner Darren Chua because Yeo was a better receiver who could handle the Thai's side-spin serve.

The presence of Chee, who won a team bronze at last year's APG in Myanmar, was also a decisive factor, noted Chia. "Jason is very solid, he's my rock. I knew he would deliver two points in the singles."

His confidence was not misplaced. Chee beat Natthawut 5-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-8 to deliver a historic gold for Singapore as the local spectators rose in acclaim.

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Said the die-hard Arsenal fan: "It felt like a football match in here tonight with all the fans supporting us. They were amazing. This medal is for them, as well as for my friends and family, my navy colleagues, my association and my mother who passed away in 2011."

Yesterday's gold was the high point in an otherwise poor outing for local paddlers in the team event - they lost 16 of their 17 matches - that began on Friday.

But the future remains bright, said TTADS president Kevin Pang.

"A lot of them are debutants and will learn from this experience. Look at Jason, he started two years ago and now he's a champion."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline Asean Para Games: Jason Chee delivers on promise. Subscribe