"We need to let the public know that ‘disabled’ can do as well as able-bodied, or even better than able-bodied in some areas. I know it is hard to change people’s minds, but it should be started, or otherwise we will fall far behind.”
Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Yim is ready to reap the benefits of an intensive two-month training programme at the Irish Para Badminton International from Wednesday (20 June) in Dublin.
The world No. 3’s full-time job in finance means he can only train in the evening. Four nights a week he can be found at the Hong Kong Sport Institute, where he works on his offensive skills and improves his endurance levels.
He anticipates tough tests in Dublin this week against British counterparts Jack Shephard and Krysten Coombs, the world’s top two players in the men’s singles SS6, as well as Malaysia’s No. 4 Didin Taresoh.
“I am looking forward to playing against Jack, Krysten and Didin,” said Wong.
“I think those will be exciting matches and I will see if the past few months of training have helped me improve. It will be a lesson learned [regardless of] the results.”
“In the coming years, I will review my programme with my coach every three months and see which part [of my training] I need to improve and take an all-around balanced solution.”
The Irish International, which runs until 24 June, will prepare Wong for his most important competition – the 2018 Asian Para Games from 6-13 October in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“It is the first time the SS6 event [will be included] in the Asian Para Games. I look forward to go and perform my best.
“Of course, going to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is my dream, so in 2019 and 2020, I will go to tournaments [and] get more points to get the qualification [for 2020],” he emphasised.
At the 2017 World Championships in Ulsan, South Korea, Wong captured the bronze medal in the men’s singles SS6 and gold in the men’s doubles. Wong – together with partner Chu Man Kai - stunned the defending champions, Coombs and Shephard, to win the world title.
“Before the game, we did not expect getting a good result, so we played it as a usual game and performed our best for all the people supporting us,” Wong said.
“[Playing doubles] is different [than] singles. I need to keep cheering up my partner and working together. The result was absolutely great. I also learned how to keep motivation and release stress during the game.”
Wong has achondroplasia, a genetic bone growth disorder that results in short stature. At the age of 10, his father urged him to take up sports as a way to stay healthy. He chose badminton, but stopped after just a year.
“I felt lost, because I am short and my friends played better and ran faster than me, so I gave up the training,” he recalled.
It would be another 15 years before Wong picked up his racket again. But this time, with the encouragement of his loved ones, he joined the Hong Kong national team, participated in his first international event in 2014 and rose up the rankings.
Now with more international experience and knowledge of the Paralympic Movement, Wong wants to help Hong Kong become more accessible and inclusive.
“‘Disabled’ is sometimes labelled as low-productivity in our society and [persons with a disability] cannot get enough resources,” he said. “In current years, it has been improving, but I think it can improve even more.”
“The point is, we need to let the public know that ‘disabled’ can do as well as able-bodied, or even better than able-bodied in some areas. I know it is hard to change people’s minds, but it should be started, or otherwise we will fall far behind.”