Jason Chee (para-table tennis)

ST Athlete of the Year: Para-paddler Jason Chee lives by three core values - determination, perseverance and fighting spirit

Jason Chee obliging fellow nominee and boxer Muhamad Ridhwan, one of his many wefie hunters, at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel ballroom yesterday.
Jason Chee obliging fellow nominee and boxer Muhamad Ridhwan, one of his many wefie hunters, at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel ballroom yesterday.PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Determination, perseverance and fighting spirit are 3 core values for worthy winner

He calls himself the "smallest giant" among his fellow nominees, but para-table tennis player Jason Chee stood tallest at The Straits Times Athlete of the Year 2017 ceremony yesterday.

The 35-year-old, nominated alongside Muhamad Ridhwan (boxing), Cheyenne Goh (winter sports), Shayna Ng (bowling) and last year's winner Joseph Schooling (swimming), was named winner of the annual award in its 10th edition.

"Among the nominees, I am the smallest giant; Schooling is an Olympic champion, the boxer is a professional champion while Shayna had been nominated a few times before," said the Navy regular, as guests at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel popped in occasionally with congratulatory greetings during the interview.

"I am very happy to win on my 'debut'."

He lost both legs, his left arm and three fingers on his right hand in a naval accident in 2012. He lost his right eye to cancer last May.

"After I lost my eye last year, I told my eye doctor I wanted to go back to playing table tennis, and he told me, 'Jason, you have to be cautious because you have already lost your right eye, you have to take care of your remaining eye. Table tennis is a fast-paced game and it might not suit you'," he recalled.

"But I said to him, 'I can still do it with my positive thinking, my determination and my perseverance to fight on'."

And he did.

He won the men's singles Class 2 gold at the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur last September, beating Thinathet Natthawut along the way. He had lost to the Thai in the final at the 2015 Games in Singapore.

Chee said: "I have my own core values - determination, perseverance and fighting spirit - these three mean a lot to me."

 
 

After accepting his award from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday, Chee unfolded a two-page acceptance speech, and spoke about the importance of athletes remembering why they took up sport in the first place.

Later, he revealed that he had spent 10 to 15 minutes on Monday writing the speech by hand.

"Winning or losing doesn't matter to me but, whenever I am nominated for an award, I will always prepare a script, just in case I win," Chee, a nominee for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award for 2017, said with a laugh.

His father Chee Kwok Chor, 77, was a picture of pride as he watched his son receive the golden statue.

He said: "I am very proud of my son. Sports is something that he is very passionate about. He trains on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after work."

Singapore Disability Sports Council president Kevin Wong said Chee's award - backed by F&N's 100Plus - is "testament to the grit and effort he had put in". Wong added: "We are really proud of him being nominated, and also winning, and hope it will spur more people to work hard towards their goals."

Chee, who describes himself as lively and happy-go-lucky, said the award will further motivate him as he prepares for this year's Asian Para Games in Indonesia as well as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He added: "This achievement will also give me more morale in living my life, and to be more happy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Winning debut'. Print Edition | Subscribe