Cheah Liek Hou made history when he became the first player ever to win the Paralympic gold medal in the men’s singles SU5 (physical impairment) category at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The 33-year-old’s tremendous victory extended his unbeaten run to 36 matches dating back to October 2019. Born with Erb’s Palsy in his right shoulder (where the nerves of his upper arm were damaged at birth), Liek Hou’s achievement is reflective of the motto that he has been living by: perfect imperfection.
“Perfect imperfection. As disabled individuals, we need to step out from the box and do the things that we enjoy, the things that we aspire to achieve.”
Although the six-time world champion has won everything that para badminton has to offer, he has no intention of slowing down. “Depending on my condition right now, I think I can compete for another three years, competing in the 2024 Paralympics. I would like to win a second gold medal for myself and Malaysia.”
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH PRESSURE?
Through experiences like the World Championship and Asian Para Games, I’ve learned to overcome pressure by getting used to it. Sometimes, I’d go on fishing trips or shop at the mall when I have time off. Doing things I enjoy outside badminton has helped me release pressure and tension tremendously.
HOW DID YOU OVERCOME YOUR DISABILITY?
When I was young, most of my friends were normal and they were kind to me. With their love and support, I was able to overcome my disability. They have been there for me, my badminton career, and my para badminton career.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS?
It’s all about preparation. As athletes, we need to be very consistent, which is why it is very important for badminton players to train every day. Whenever there’s a major competition, it is important to receive proper training, be focused on the things you need, as well as having an understanding as to what your weak points are.
In addition, we need to know who our opponents are, to analyse their performance before we go for the competition.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER?
I’m very proud of myself for winning the recent Paralympic Games. Winning this gold medal was not an easy task for me. The final occurred between National Day and Malaysia Day, so it was a historic moment for me and for Malaysia as well.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue for a few more years, at least one more season. Right now, badminton is where my focus is at, and I aim to compete in the 2024 Paralympic Games.
Liek Hou is in a shirt, trenchcoat and trousers by Brunello Cucinelli