Cancer survivor Chou Tien-chen wins his biggest battle , Latest Others News - The New Paper

Cancer survivor Chou Tien-chen wins his biggest battle

Over his 17-year career, Taiwanese badminton player Chou Tien-chen has celebrated many victories on the court.

But one win, albeit off the court, has had a bigger impact than the others.

In early 2023, he went for a medical check-up as part of his preparations to qualify for the Paris Olympics. Tests showed he was at risk of developing cancer and he was advised to return for a follow-up one year later.

Crediting divine intervention, the devout Christian sought a second opinion, which revealed that he had stage zero colorectal cancer which had not spread.

The 34-year-old told The Straits Times: “Of course I was shocked. I live a healthy life and avoid food that’s high in sugar, so why would this happen to me?

“But if I had waited for a year for the follow-up, I would have been finished.”

He underwent surgery to remove cancerous cells and part of his large intestine last April and boarded a flight to Dubai for the 2023 Badminton Asia Championships a day later.

Despite the setback, he rebounded quickly to win the 2023 Hylo Open and 2024 Thailand Masters, as well as notch an upset over Denmark’s world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in the 2024 Thomas Cup.

While Chou did not suffer many adverse effects from the surgery, he said: “For about half a year after my surgery, I found it hard to focus in high-intensity conditions against top opponents on the court because my body was still recovering.

“But I had no choice but to keep going because it was the Olympic qualification period and I cannot not play.”

After losing in the second round of the Asian Championships, he did not make it past the quarter-finals in his next 15 individual events and crashed out within the first two rounds in 11 tournaments.

His world ranking dipped from fifth to 15th but he finally had a breakthrough on Nov 5 when he beat Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu to win the Hylo Open.

It was only then that he shared the news of his cancer with people outside his family.

The former world No. 2 said: “I didn’t want to make my condition an excuse for losing. I tried to focus only on my training and my game to get back to what I was before surgery.

“Many people have overcome problems much bigger than mine but don’t have the platform to share. The title was validation that I could do it, and I hope people can be positive in the face of adversity and be encouraged to find a way out of their valley.”

In a sport that requires strength, agility and stamina, evergreen Chou is chugging along and claiming scalps as he aims to play until he is 40.

In town for the KFF Singapore Badminton Open, he brushed aside Asian and All England Open champion Jonatan Christie 21-17, 21-6 in the first round of the men’s singles on May 29, before facing Canada’s Brian Yang a day later.

He said: “It’s tiring but one must find joy in playing. If you’re happy, you won’t find it draining. I still enjoy playing and the competitiveness of it as much as I did when I started playing at five and training from nine.”

He is also happy to share his love for the sport with others, and makes time to coach underprivileged kids in Chinese Taipei’s border towns at least once a year.

He said: “I feel it is important to give back when I’m still playing and have some influence. My involvement with them may lead to others giving more aid and attention to them when they need it most.

“I’m sincere about this, and it is not a one-off, so I’ll find time to give them the attention.”