TENPIN BOWLING

How Hong Kong's Wu Siu-hong beat cancer to become world champion

Hong Kong ace is playing better than ever with his Las Vegas triumph testament to his courage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 December, 2015, 11:15pm

When Wu Siu-hong received his medical report that confirmed his worst fears, his world came tumbling down on him like a thousand tenpins tearing through his heart.

Twenty months ago, Wu was diagnosed with a disease that had taken his father's life and it was going to change Hong Kong's top bowler's life forever.

READ: How Wu Siu-hong won in Las Vegas

"How could I have cancer. I was just 29 at the time," recalled an incredulous Wu.

Only three years earlier, cancer, one of the world's deadliest killers, had claimed his father's life and going back a few more years Hong Kong's brightest and best bowler, Sunny Hui Cheung-kok, died at the age of 41 after developing a brain tumour in 2003.

WATCH: Wu Siu-hong talks about his plight with cancer

So many things had entered Wu's mind when he had the dreaded illness. Would he be cured from it? Would he ever compete again? What would his teammates think?

My mind went blank at the time. I was so worried and I didn't know what to do. I couldn't sleep for days
Wu Siu-hong

"It was a massive shock," admitted Wu. "My mind went blank at the time. I was so worried and I didn't know what to do. I couldn't sleep for days. "

When tests confirmed that I had testicular cancer, I decided to undergo surgery the following week on the advice of my doctor."

Wu's life would take a dramatic turn after he underwent surgery followed by several sessions of chemotherapy. His illness was similar to that of disgraced Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, who also suffered from testicular cancer before his record-breaking Tour titles and ultimately, his fall from grace, after his admission he had used performance enhancing drugs.

Wu is no drug cheat and he has competed with the utmost dignity, winning many titles in his long and distinguished career that included double gold medals as a 16-year-old at the Osaka East Asian Games in 2001 and an individual silver at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.

Cancer, he thought, would be more of a hindrance than anything else. But he first had to become healthy again.

"I was very worried before I had surgery. My doctor somewhat assured me that it was curable and that it was first stage cancer. But staying in hospital with other cancer patients, who were suffering, too, was a horrible experience.

"I did chemo and it was painful. I had needles stuck in me and I couldn't move for days. After going through this and surviving this disease, it had me thinking that we all should treasure our lives," said the 31-year-old.

After treatment, he started to get his life together … and return to what he does best - bowl.

"The treatment was a great success. My hair didn't really fall out and I only had a bit of vomiting and my white cell count was a bit low. My movement was restricted somewhat, but it gradually got better. "At first I could only bowl a score of 150, but I pressed on. I didn't disclose my condition to my team and coach until after the [2014] Asian Games [in Incheon]. I didn't want to tell them because I didn't want them to worry about me and affect the morale of the team," said the one-time teen prodigy.

His experience with the illness has only made him stronger and he's happy he has inspired many people, especially after winning last week's 51st QubicaAMF World Cup in Las Vegas, where he became the first Hong Kong bowler to lift the prestigious title.

"Compared to what other people have gone through, my illness is minor. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he lived another three or four years. I am similar to my dad. I am a fighter," he said.

"Life is so unpredictable. I really want to share my experience with kids and other people; they need to know that they should treasure life. I am one of the lucky ones."

Wu was speaking at a celebratory luncheon at a hotel in Causeway Bay, where dignitaries and the press feted his epic victory.

The Hong Kong star defeated South Africa's Francois Louw 2-0 in the best-of-three games final in Las Vegas last Thursday to begin the celebrations back home.

"I wasn't thinking about the title when I first bowled. I was aiming to finish in the top eight because my previous best was top nine. I experienced a lot of ups and downs, but thanks to my coaches [Mike Seymour and Bill Hoffman], I was able to improve my strategy and perform better."

Coach Hoffman always knew the former "Whizz-kid", and now "Comeback Kid" would win the "big one" after showing years of consistency.

"It's an amazing story because a few months ago, I asked him why he still wanted to bowl and he told me he wanted to become a world champion. People like to achieve those things, but few people have the talent [to become world champion].

"It says a lot because he could finally get that talent out and show everybody how good he is. It's one of the most important titles [World Cup] in the world," said Hoffman, himself a World Cup champion in 2007 and five-times world champion.

Vivien Lau Chiang Cho, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Tenpin Bowling Congress, will never forget Wu's historic moment and his unwavering love for the game.

"We kept exchanging Whatsapp messages when Siu-hong was in Las Vegas and he seemed to be getting more confident of winning and when he finally won the World Cup title, I was crying. The whole community now knows he got the title, including the Hong Kong chief executive [who sent a congratulatory message]. Siu-hong can be very proud of that," said Lau.