Major setbacks can’t stop para shuttler Jit Thye from being a smash hit

An inspiration to many: Chew Jit Thye was diagnosed with spina bifida since he was born but that did not stop him from aiming big.

PETALING JAYA: From having no knowledge in badminton to becoming a double bronze medallist in the Cambodia SEA Games – that’s the transformation in the life story of national para athlete Chew Jit Thye.

The 24-year-old was diagnosed with spina bifida since he was born but that did not stop him from aiming big.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord fail to form properly, leaving a section of the spinal cord and nerves exposed through an opening in the back.

Jit Thye went under the knife when he was five months old in the hopes of recovering from his condition.

His doctor, however, made a terrible mistake during the surgery and it caused Jit Thye’s lower body to be affected.

“Everything that seems to be simple for well-bodied people to do in their daily lives is a challenge for me,” said Jit Thye.

“For example, I require more time climbing up the stairs or even getting a glass of water unlike the normal people.”

Despite being physically challenged, Jit Thye has an undying passion for sports since he was a kid.

Physical Education (PE) classes during primary school, however, were difficult for Jit Thye.

While other kids were having fun playing with their friends, Jit Thye could only sit on the bench and watch them.

But his supportive parents Chew Eng Kar (father) and Chan Bee See (mother) were having none of it and they kept Jit Thye’s passion in sports alive when he faced setbacks.

“From standard one to four, I could only sit and watch the others play during PE classes,” said Jit Thye.

“I was pleasantly surprised when one of my friends invited me to join them for football as a goalkeeper.

“I was having fun until my teacher told me that I shouldn’t keep playing with the walking stick because it was dangerous and I might accidentally hit someone.

“My father then bought a football and took me to the park to play. But as time went on, I started to accept the fact that I could not play football.

“My mother purchased a table tennis table and paddles, and we started playing table tennis.

“Instead of sitting on the wheelchair, I would stand and we spent a lot of time playing because it was fun.”

Jit Thye’s competitive sports career started when he chose wheelchair badminton and trained under coaches Moe Chin Kiat (Ciku) and Woon Sze Wei.

His venture into the sport at 15 was not smooth sailing because he had to learn how to control the wheelchair while hitting the shuttlecock.

“Controlling the wheelchair is a long learning process and I am still learning.

“I usually watched videos of foreign players controlling their wheelchairs and try to learn from there.

“I’m trying to learn how to move smoothly, quickly and steadily.

“It was difficult because I had to juggle controlling the wheelchair and returning the shots.”

Jit Thye became better and earned a national call-up when he bagged gold in the singles and silver in doubles at the 2018 Para Malaysian Games (Sukma) in Perak at the age of 20.

Winning a gold medal in the Indonesian Open last year was Jit Thye’s biggest achievement before he went on to win two bronze medals in the Cambodia SEA Games.

He did not win a gold but the medals are truly meaningful for Jit Thye after returning home empty-handed from his debut at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

“I made my maiden appearance in 2017 but I lost in the quarter-finals,” said Jit Thye.

“I was frustrated when I saw other athletes receiving awards, taking pictures and sharing the news on social media, because I spent so much time and effort in training but could not win anything.

“So, I worked harder and aimed to reach the semis this time, and I finally did it.”

Jit Thye is keeping his fingers crossed that physically challenged athletes do not give up their dreams or goals.

Jit Thye will now focus on beefing up for his challenge in the Indonesian Open in September and eventually hopes to qualify for the Paralympics.

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