Friendly competition
pumps life back
into Ching

The All-American recovers
from an accident to win
a volleyball tournament

It was the perfect Sunday.

It was a great day to be outdoors, tossing a football with family members, listening to live Hawaiian music and winning a little money playing volleyball.

Tony Ching: The former UH volleyball star is competing again after an accident in May.

It was a great day to be alive. And Tony Ching was thankful for that.

Some four months after a serious accident, the former All-American for the Hawaii Warriors volleyball team hooked up with former Warriors Aaron Wilton and Dejan Miladinovic to win the inaugural Steinlager Light Invitational. It was a new format for the trio, a three-man grass tournament, where they went 3-0 and split $400.

Watching Ching, one would never suspect that on May 23 he had undergone surgery to relieve swelling on his brain. He had also suffered a punctured lung and injuries to both legs and left arm after his scooter was sideswiped by a car several blocks from the UH campus.

Physically, Ching says he's nearly 100 percent. Outwardly, he is fine.

But he knows he's changed.

"I'm stronger inside," said Ching. "I think I have better qualities now. I'm a lot more appreciative toward life.

"But I haven't slowed down."

Ching said he shares a motto with former Warrior football player Nate Jackson, who had heart surgery last November.

"He said It's not worth living if you're not going to live life on the edge," said Ching. "I feel that way, although not to the extreme that Nate does. He's a crazy man."

Ching's mom Lynn said she has noticed a personality change in her oldest son.

"He's more reserved now," she said. "He sits sometimes, just thinking and being quiet. I know he's very grateful to be alive.

"But he's been a fighter since birth. He wasn't supposed to make it through the night when he was born. He had water in his lungs and he didn't come home for a while. He was a fighter then. We knew he'd be OK when, hours after surgery, he had opened his eyes, was talking and was demanding."

Being fiery was Ching's on-court trademark. He said that having had to rehab his shoulder helped prepare him for the rehabilitation process following the accident.

"I was back in familiar territory," he said. "I had been there with my shoulder. I had great people helping me.

"And it was nice to have Dr. Richardson (the late UH team physician Allen Richardson). He had reassured me that I'd make a full recovery and that automatically put me in good spirits. It was nice to know that something like this could happen and I could get back to where I was."

Wilton, the Warriors' assistant coach, was happy with Ching's quick recovery.

"It doesn't seem like anything happened," said Wilton. "We were very scared when we got the phone call about the accident."

Ching said he had no doubt that he'd be playing volleyball again. He said that he didn't think about the worst-case scenario.

"When I woke up, they said I could have died, so I guess that was worst case," said Ching. "But we passed that point pretty quickly. Life is good and I'm enjoying it on an everyday kind of thing."

Ching will graduate in spring with a degree in business management. He wants to continue playing professionally, either on the beach or indoors in Europe or Puerto Rico.

His current beach doubles partner is former Warrior teammate Eyal Zimet.

"I have a great beach partner in Eyal," said Ching. "We had a lot of fun playing in a couple of tournaments this summer and I'm excited to explore those options.

"I miss playing (college) volleyball. It's been such a big part of my life. I wake up in the mornings and sometimes I still go and work out with the team. I miss that team feeling."

Ching said the worst day he's had since the accident was a few weeks ago when the Warriors were told that the NCAA was stripping them of the 2002 national title.

"That was a very bad day for me," said Ching, an all-tournament team selection in the 2002 final four. "I didn't think it would have to go to an appeal. But I think they'll be fair and, hopefully, have our best interests at heart. I think they'll it's still ours."

NOTE: The second-place team of Chris Ziegfried, Tony McInerny and John McDermott tournament shared $300. Former UH players Heidi and Hedder Ilustre and Jen Carey won the women's division and split $500. They defeated the team of ex-Wahine Aven Lee and Tehani Miyashiro, and ex-UNLV player Puna Chai, 30-28, in the final.


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