Spirit of Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Paralympian inspiring others to chase their dream

He has only one leg and partial hearing, but Davis Dai Kim-ping can still compete with the world’s best

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 1:03pm

Davis Dai Kim-ping was 11 when he was hit by a truck while crossing the road. The accident put him in a coma and his right leg was severely injured.

Two days later he woke up to find that doctors had amputated his leg. Being a child, he thought nothing of it and assumed it would grow back or he would simply get a replacement robotic leg.

During the year he spent recovering in hospital he realised that something else was seriously wrong.

“I watched TV and I couldn’t hear it very well, but I didn’t know why,” Dai recalled.

“I rang my dad and he told me to wait a moment, but then I waited for a long time and didn’t hear anything, so I hung up.”

Because of the amputation, doctors had prescribed Dai many antibiotics, which at the time were not strictly regulated. An overprescription caused his hearing to deteriorate, and it was not long before he lost his sense of hearing entirely.

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When Dai finally left hospital a year after the accident, he had to relearn everything. “It was a difficult and long process,” he said.

“I had crutches, so my classmates had to help me buy lunch. Sometimes after lunch, I had nowhere to go, so I would just sit in the bathroom until it was time for class. I was afraid to interact with other people.”

With even his family finding it hard to communicate with him, Dai spent a lot of time by himself, drawing. He later went to design school and became a graphic designer.

However, things went south in 2000 when he lost his job. Sitting at home all day with depression, he decided he had to do something about it.

“I went to a society for the disabled and started to learn to exercise. That’s when I started to change. I stopped feeling so depressed and made lots of new friends. Sports changed me.

“I began chasing what I had lost before. I learnt to swim, ride a bike and climb. I wanted to learn when I discovered I could. I realised that even without a leg, I could do all of these things.”

Dai more than made up for what he had lost when in 2002, he swam for Hong Kong in the Asian Paralympic Games.

I want to be an example, to be proof that they can do it too
Davis Dai Kim-ping, athlete

In 2007 he won silver for the city at the Asian Rowing Championships. That opened up the world of competitive sport and he has since represented Hong Kong three times in the World Rowing Championships.

At 30 years old, Dai regained part of his hearing after surgery to insert a hearing aid into the back of his head.

“I hadn’t heard any noises for nearly 20 years, so when I could finally hear again, I had to learn how to listen from scratch.

“I would hear [public transport] announcements and not understand – they were just sounds. Every day I would take public transport and just listen. One day I suddenly realised I understood the sounds. It was a miracle.”

Now 41, Dai has been nominated for the South China Morning Post’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards in the Overcoming Personal Challenge category, something he hopes will help others to push ahead in life.

“I want to inspire other people to go and do what they want. I want to be an example, to be proof that they can do it too. Whether they succeed is not the issue. If they want something, just take action.”