Chan Ho Yuen is one of Hong Kong’s top Para badminton athletes and is ranked second in the world in men’s singles Wheelchair 2 (WH2) category. He is currently No. 1 in the Race To Tokyo Paralympic Games qualifying standings.
Chan became Hong Kong’s No. 1 wheelchair badminton player in 2009 after overcoming a car accident the year before that led to the amputation of his left leg.
“It was definitely difficult getting through that. I was 22 and it should have been the best time of my life. Instead, I had become a man with a disability. There were times when I could not even look at myself in the mirror and refused to accept that I was that person,” he said.
He spent almost a year in hospital undergoing 15 major surgeries in addition to more than 10 smaller operations.
“Badminton saved my life. As I became better, I remember thinking that even though I have a disability I have a value. I focused on training and getting my body stronger. That helped me gain more confidence as well. Finally, I felt like I could stand up again.”
Family has been the cornerstone of his success. Especially his wife and mother.
“My wife Sandy, who was my girlfriend at the time of the accident, stayed because she believed in me. The biggest motivation for getting back on track was knowing that she would marry me despite everything.”
Chan and Sandy married in November 2013.
Chan’s mother nursed him through his ordeal and encouraged his ambition to become Hong Kong’s first wheelchair badminton player. “None of my family members are athletes but they’ve supported me through it all. They understand my dreams.”
Even before his accident Chan was athletic, playing badminton and football regularly, though not professionally. While he is now sought after by other Para sports organisations, he is quite content with badminton.
“If I really had to choose something else, maybe wheelchair fencing because Hong Kong has a strong team. But I’ll still go with badminton.”
His choice is taking him on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and while a medal is within reach, there are a number of obstacles in Chan’s way. The main one is world No. 1 Kim Jungjun of Korea.
Each has his own style on court and Chan is the only one in his class to have ever defeated Kim. Yet, both men seem to have a respectful rivalry both on and off court.
“I see Kim as the God of wheelchair badminton. He has made history with his achievements and he’s a legend. I have a deep admiration for him. His sense of discipline when it comes to training and keeping himself in shape allows him to be at the top of his game,” Chan said.
Physically both are strong, highly-skilled athletes but Chan brings to attention the differences.
“As a double above-knee amputee, his body weight is lighter than mine. He is probably the fastest wheelchair athlete in Para badminton and apart from his overall strength and high level of fitness, I believe he has good control of his chair because he has strong hands with big fingers.”
Chan’s own advantage, he claims, is his powerful shots as well as his height and reach which allows him to get to the shuttlecock earlier.
“However, now I do think Kim and I are quite equal and every battle just depends on the conditions of the day we play.”
Chan’s life seems split by a before and after situation. “Before the accident I had no particular dreams but now I want to win a medal at Tokyo 2020.”
Chan also aims to be an example for athletes with disability in Hong Kong. “I want people to see that it is possible to be a professional athlete in any Para sport. Maybe even achieve more than the able-bodied athletes.”