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My Story, My Pride: “Everyone is on a different timeline.” - Grace Chua

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Credits: Grace Chua

At first glance, one might think of her as a soft-spoken and shy person. However, once you get to know Grace, you will soon realise that she possesses lots of grit and fire with a solid work ethic and competitiveness. The 26-year-old is currently finishing her final year of medical school while still playing for the Singapore National Badminton Team. So what makes her still choose to walk on this path despite the challenges she faces?

This is her story.

First brush with Badminton

Grace was introduced to Badminton at the tender age of 8 when her parents signed her and her brothers up for a “learn to play badminton” class at a nearby community centre. What began as solely for enjoyment and leisure purposes started to take on a more competitive note and in one competition that she took part in for fun, her on-court performance caught the eyes of Scouters which landed her an invitation to train with the National Junior Squad. As her parents felt that she was still too young, they decided to wait a year while observing her development in the sport before realising that their daughter had great potential to go further. Hence, when the offer came knocking again, they gave her their blessings which kickstarted her competitive Badminton career.

Over time, she rose through the ranks and excelled in school while juggling up to 7 times a week of rigorous training. After her IB exams, she decided to turn professional and stuck with it for the next 3.5 years. In addition to having multiple championship medals under her belt, Grace also had the privilege of travelling for training camps and tournaments and made many friends internationally.

To this day, she has amassed 4 SEA Games Team bronzes, a 4th-place finish in the Team event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and a stellar bronze medal in the Singles event at the 2018 World University Badminton Championships.(Credits: Grace Chua)

Finding a passion in Medicine

Unlike Badminton, her decision to pursue a medical career was something that gradually grew on her and consisted of “accumulated experiences over the years”. During her sporting career, Grace has sustained multiple injuries and needed to go for many consultations with doctors and physiotherapists to have them checked out. This contributed to a keen interest in the specific field of sports medicine and grew in her the desire to eventually help athletes receive more personalised and adequate medical care.

One incident that stuck with her happened when she was 16 years old. She had just gotten approval to compete abroad right before her O levels but had gotten injured two weeks before the competition. Though devastated, she was still determined to play. The doctors she saw had quickly refused to clear her to compete which frustrated her. She then saw a sports doctor who took the time to listen to her and tried to help her recover in time for the comps as she knew how much it meant to Grace. While she understands that the previous doctors meant no harm and were looking out for her health and well-being, she appreciated the sports doctor for going the extra mile to understand her.

“She didn’t just go by the book and instead took time to understand me and my story and then to help me. That made me realise that that was someone who I wanted to become; someone who can understand the patients and then to help them.”

Continuing the balancing act

After 3.5 years of playing professionally, Grace decided it was time to return to school but still felt that she had unfinished business in Badminton. After working out an arrangement with her sporting association, she was given the opportunity to pursue a medical degree while still playing on the National Team.

Grace also credits her schoolmates for their encouragement and support especially when she has to be overseas for competitions. (Credits: Grace Chua)

Even though the balancing act of managing studies and sports is not new to her, there have been days when fatigue gets the better of her. She candidly recalls an incident where she fell asleep standing while she was on her rounds and only realised it when her iPad and notebook dropped onto the ground, eliciting stares from her colleagues and patients. Nowadays, her typical days consist of hospital attachments, training sessions, travelling, and studying that run non-stop from 6 am till 12 am on a good day.

On why she still chooses to play badminton competitively, Grace said:

“I still enjoy playing badminton. And while I still can, even though it can be very tiring, I still want to pursue it as I believe that I have been given this gift and want to use it.”

The path least travelled can often be lonely

However, this journey has not always been easy as the 4-times SEA games medalist has had to deal with bouts of loneliness. As she is constantly rushing from one place to another, she has had to sit out from social gatherings with her loved ones and does not get to see her teammates that much due to different training schedules.

“Sometimes it gets lonely…like there’s no one else in this journey but at the same time, I don’t think I have ever regretted it. No matter how tough or tiring it is, I look back and I’m just glad that I am still able to be in both (medicine and badminton)…definitely no regrets.”

Nonetheless, less time with family and friends has made her truly appreciate the time spent with them as she focuses on getting quality time with them. She also notes that as her parents are not getting younger, she has to begin prioritising time with them as she does not want to take them for granted.

Grace attributes the unwavering support and love she has received over the years to her family and friends who have made her journey more enriching and fun. (Credits: Grace Chua)

In terms of romance, Grace acknowledges that it has been difficult for her to find a life partner. Most of her peers found their significant others within their industry, from social events, or because they share similar lifestyles. Though she occasionally wonders if she will ever find someone, she would shift her focus back onto her goals and priorities and remind herself to be patient as there is a time and place for everything.

“In terms of dating, the pressure is always there. People will always ask if I’m dating anyone. But I feel that everyone is on a different timeline and we shouldn’t always try to compare…For me, I choose to focus on things that I really want to focus on.”

Enjoy the process. You are on your own path.

As much as Grace has expressed deep gratitude and joy for all that she has been through in her journey, she shares that there was a time when she struggled to be grateful and would repeatedly beat herself up after every setback. It took years of growth and encouragement to reframe her mindset that would eventually help her approach life with a healthier attitude:

“We need to enjoy the process and appreciate the journey rather than to always keep looking to the future and focusing on the results…When I was playing full-time, I was very focused on getting results because I was putting my studies on hold and felt that I needed to prove myself to show that I’m not wasting time. This subconsciously led me to place this extra pressure on myself to have to do well and so, every time I lost my matches, I would feel very bad about myself and cry. Through the years, I’ve learnt that I should focus more on the process and on the things that I can control…the daily things…and leave the outcome to God. This mindset has allowed me to appreciate the journey and the people around me and to embrace them as they are all part of the journey too.”


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