Wong Pui-lam and Kelvin Lau Tsz-ho were worried as they stepped onto the sizzling sand of Indonesia’s JSC Beachball Arena on the Asian Games in Palembang ultimate August.

The seaside volleyball duo from Hong Kong had fought against all odds to come this a long way. Success at the Asian Games, which show up every four years, had usually been their final aim – the whole lot they’d worked for.

But something turned into not proper.

Lau had been feeling sick on his manner to Indonesia, and now on the sector, he becomes starting to feel dazed. Wong recommended swapping positions, so Lau should take the much less disturbing position of a defender inside the backcourt place, even as he played blocker on the internet.

During one point, Wong sent the ball excessively up into the air for his companion to hit. But when he turned around, he saw that Lau overlooked the ball; however, he becomes bent over, hands on his knees. “That’s after I knew – something became sincerely wrong,” Wong says.

They lost to their opponents, the house crew. Afterward, the Hong Kong crew’s doctor checked Lau and located he had a raging fever. With furrowed brows, he informed them: “It could be contamination or coronary heart trouble. There are many opportunities.”

A blood test on the local sanatorium exposed an anomaly in Lau’s white blood cell depend and surprisingly low hemoglobin and platelet ranges. The physician could not deliver a company diagnosis but advised him to return home for a greater comprehensive check-up.

“My English became now not superb. However, I stuck the phrase ‘most cancers,’” says Wong, who nonetheless had not realized how extreme Lau’s circumstance turned into and notion the physician might have made a mistake. Reality only set in when the physician issued an ultimatum: “If he doesn’t go, he would possibly die.”

The assertion weighs so closely on Wong’s coronary heart that the 27-year-old has hassle repeating it even months later, reducing his voice to a whisper as he remembers the moment. Lau, however, stays rather calm. “Well, there’s not anything you can do but to simply accept it besides,” the reticent 24-12 months-vintage explains.

At the time, even though neither knew the way to react. Wong packed their baggage and flew again to Hong Kong, in which a ready ambulance took Lau to Queen Mary Hospital. Lau’s lingering suspicion became showed – he had leukemia, a circumstance wherein the bone marrow produces too many odd white blood cells, which generally assist in warding off infections.

Both Wong and Lau took up volleyball in excessive college as a hobby. They came across each other while studying at a vocational school and commenced partnering in 2014, setting their sights on the Asian Games.

As novice athletes, they worked hard to fund their dream. Both coached volleyball at schools and work as online fitness trainers for more money (“He woke up at six to do this!” Wong exclaims approximately his teammate). The pair skilled at night and all through the weekends, spending hours at the seashore enduring punishing warmth in the summertime and chilling bloodless in iciness. “Just a couple of minutes at the sand and your feet could be numb from the cold,” Wong says.

They stored frugal finances for their journeys to extra than a dozen national and nearby competitions every 12 months without extra investment. They ordered the cheapest food on eating place menus and, on occasion, spent more than 20 hours on a train to get to an opposition.

“The largest expense was flight tickets. So to get the bottom fare, we might choose the worst instances, arriving late at night and having to spend the night time on the airport,” Wong says.

Those have been a number of the hardest – but in hindsight, also happiest – days in their profession. “We have been just satisfied to be there. And if we received, that’s something greater,” Wong says.

Their achievements saw them meet the qualifications to become elite athletes under the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s Sports Scholarship Scheme in March remaining year, letting them educate and compete full time.

However, as they were given closer to their goal, Wong became increasingly more unnerved. “We’d gotten so far; we couldn’t find the money for to lose. I couldn’t believe going lower back.”

Overwhelmed with doubt, Wong became harsher on himself as nicely and his companion. Once, he threw an irritated fit in the course of the competition and acquired a purple card, in addition to a US$500 fine. He also admitted to Lau that he couldn’t see a future in volleyball and didn’t accept as true with they may obtain whatever.
“Even although I stated something so hurtful, he instructed me he nonetheless believed in me,” Wong says.