After more than six weeks, Daniel Chan Ho Yuen was “super happy” to touch his racquet. As the world fights the COVID-19 global pandemic, he was motivated to put in “120 per cent effort” to compensate for missing out on training en route to his dream of competing at Tokyo 2020.
Chan, the 35-year-old Para Badminton star from Hong Kong, has resumed full training for several weeks now and feels that he is back to his pre-lockdown levels.
“After more than a month of without training, I am very excited to resume training. Though I think it’s a very short period compared to other countries where the athletes are still confined at home. I feel my fitness is back and I’m in 100 per cent shape,” Chan told asianparalympic.org.
“As we have one more year to prepare for the Paralympic Games, there’s no rush to train too much in terms of the physical and power game. Most of my training now is about working on new technique and tactics in my game.
“There are some new rules that we are asked to follow before training sessions. We also need to report where we have been at night time after training every day. And of course, the entire team was tested before training resumed.”
Even before returning to training, the WH2 category player’s daily routine included weight training and exercising on both a hand bike and stationary bike. Though he was also happy to “spend some quality time with family and watching Korean dramas on television”.
‘Waiting for this moment for last 11 years’
With Para Badminton making its debut at the Paralympic Games next year, Chan said the postponement of the Games was “tough”.
“It will definitely have some influence on athletes. But I am happy that the IOC and IPC came up with this decision as fast as they could. Now, we have more time to re-arrange our training schedule and prepare better for the upcoming Games.”
Much like his peers, playing at the Games will be a “dream come true” for Chan. And he has waited for long 11 years for this special moment.
“Frankly, I am really proud of myself.
“A few years ago, there was still a question mark over Para Badminton being included in the Paralympics. However, I chose to wait for it. And now I will take part in the upcoming Paralympics Games which will be a dream come true,” said Chan, who exploded in the Para badminton scene late in 2018.
“Being the first ever Paralympic gold medalist in Para Badminton has always my dream. And I will stay very calm. For me, the most important thing is to show my best performance on that day.”
The Tokyo 2020 Games will take place now in the summer of 2021 and will be all the more important for Chan as it will play a big role in deciding his career “I am still not sure if I will continue playing after Tokyo. I need to see what results I will achieve. I think it’s 50/50 chance now. It will depend on whether I am still very competitive in my event, like maintaining a top 3 position; and I am still enjoying my game.
“As I am not sure if I will keep playing until Paris 2024, so I will treat Tokyo 2020 as my last one. I am aiming to put 120% effort in achieving my dream,” said the World Championships silver medallist who wants to setup a public association for serving people with disabilities in Hong Kong after retirement.
Rivalry with Kim Jungjun
A showdown between Chan and South Korea’s Kim Jungjun in the WH2 men’s singles event will be one of the biggest attractions that Para Badminton fans will be looking forward to at the Games. “I am confident with my fitness, power and technique. I believe if I can keep my body in good condition and also calm my nerves, I will get a good result.”
“Jungjun is, of course, my toughest opponent and also the best wheelchair player in the world. Playing with him is always difficult. I think now we are in the same level in our head-to-head encounters 4-4, fitness, power and technique etc. The key to winning will be mental strength,” said Chan who ended Kim Jungjun’s eight-year undefeated run journey by beating him at the 2018 Australia Para Badminton International final. “That has been one of my biggest career wins.”
Chan, the World no. 2, also considers the Indonesia 2018 and Guangzhou 2010 Asian Para Games as important events in his career.
“The Guangzhou 2010 Games was my first international tournament in Para Badminton, and I finished in 4th place while I won a silver in Indonesia,” he said adding that if he continues playing after Tokyo 2020, he will be one of the strongest challengers for the gold medal at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games.
Chan was involved in a car accident in 2008 that led to the amputation of his left leg. And he admitted it was Para Badminton that helped him to rebuild his confidence, career and his life. In the sport, he follows former Danish great Peter Gade.
Besides Para Badminton, he is fond of Wheelchair fencing and boccia, the two other popular Parasports in Hong Kong.
“Being one of the most successful Para Badminton players in the sport’s history is one of my goals. If people remember me or consider me as one the most successful Wheelchair badminton players even after my retirement, I will feel proud!”