China volleyball captain Hui chases gold after career-saving heart surgery
If Chinese women's volleyball captain Hui Ruoqi can lead her team to Olympic glory, it will be an emphatic celebration of her recovery from a serious illness.
Just a year ago, Hui, 25, underwent surgery for an inflammation of the heart and has only been back in training for nine months. She has to undergo monthly check-ups to make sure her heart is still functioning properly but is confident the pressure of playing in her first Olympic Games will not worsen the condition.
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"My condition was an inflammation of the heart with an irregular heartbeat. It was two months of treatment and now it's all OK. Without successful treatment it would have stopped me playing. It would have affected my life too. So it was a worrying time. I had many practices on the court before I was able to come back and play,” she said.
"At the beginning, when all this happened with my heart, I was very concerned but when the doctor said, 'Yes, you can come back to do some exercise and make it harder and then harder' I did that. I did the practice and then I did the game. Then the coach said I could come back in the team and now every month I get my heart checked.
"It was a big problem. In my sports life and in my own life I was sad about this for a long time but my parents have taught me many things and I think my life is not all volleyball. I have many other ideas and as I feel better and better I feel the hope of my life again. I chose to come back and play volleyball to see what I can achieve on the court. An Olympic gold medal would be special to me after what has happened. But mostly I want to support my team.”
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China's women have not won Olympic gold for 12 years but are expected to be one of the strongest challengers to Brazil, who are looking for a third consecutive title. Their captain will be key to China's success when they open in group B against Netherlands on Saturday morning.