Champion swimmer fighting to recover from devastating fall - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Champion swimmer fighting to recover from devastating fall

Daren Choi Daren Choi
Jasmine Mau Jasmine Mau
Samantha Moody Samantha Moody
Chanelle Choi Chanelle Choi
Daren Choi (center in blue shirt) Daren Choi (center in blue shirt)

By Oscar Valenzuela - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) _One of Hawaii's fastest swimmers recently took three medals competing against the world's best. Now Daren Choi is in a hospital bed unable to walk.

On the morning of June 28, 16-year-old Daren Choi of Pearl City competed against swimmers from thirteen different countries in Western Samoa. He walked away from three events with three medals.

Just hours later, Daren Choi would be severely crippled and wouldn't be able to move his arms or his legs.

"All of a sudden I turned left and I saw somebody fall off the rock and we all thought he jumped" said teammate Jasmine Mau.

During an excursion to a nearby island, Daren and a couple of his teammates had wandered off to explore a cave. But he slipped and fell crashing onto a shallow reef fifteen feet below.

Friends and life guards quickly rescued him from the waters and transported him to a local hospital.

"We didn't know if he was okay and were just really worried if he was even alive" said teammate Samantha Moody.

Daren had suffered a traumatic spinal injury. From that point forward the journey home got complicated, after a forced overnight stay on the remote island, there was a chance he wouldn't be able to get home until he further recovered.

"They were saying six to eight weeks in New Zealand"

Daren forced himself to make the flight with the help of some head gear

"With the halo on he was alright he could go sit up so that was good news. He made it through the flight, he said that was the best flight of his life" said Daren's sister Chanelle Choi.

Daren is now under the care of doctors in Honolulu. They say his recovery may be slow. And he won't be swimming anytime soon.

The team moves on to the state championships this weekend. To keep Daren with them during the competition they've had his name printed on their swim caps which they'll all wear during the championships.

As for his recovery, perhaps his teammates know him just a bit better than any doctor. His teammate Jasmine summed up her friend:

"He just has a positive attitude about everything and perseveres though everything and he doesn't give up, he's like the perfect athlete" said

The Kamehameha Swim Club has set up a fund for anyone wishing to support Daren Choi's recovery. They will be accepted at: KSC Friends of Daren Choi" at any First Hawaiian Bank.

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