Having undergone surgery for a heart condition that affected him during the last two years, Mark Caljouw is now hopeful of hitting a level that he previously wasn’t able to.
Afflicted with atrial fibrillation which caused his heart to beat at a abnormally high rate, Caljouw opted for surgery after Tokyo 2020. The condition required a minor surgery which took him two weeks to recover.
Caljouw returned at the YONEX French Open but couldn’t complete his first round match. On the opening day of the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2021 he took on Sai Praneeth and was his tenacious best, wearing the Indian down in a match that went over an hour.
Praneeth walked away feeling nauseous from the effort and Caljouw knew that he had aced his first big test after the surgery.
“I surprised myself a little bit with the shape I’m in now, but this gives me a lot of confidence,” said Caljouw.
“I’m extremely happy that I could play without pain. I had a heart surgery, then I got an injury in my back, so it took a while to recover, but everything is good now. I’m feeling good, not in the best shape of my life, but this shows me that I’m a real fighter. It’s a good first round, now I have a couple of days to recover.”
Caljouw said the condition had mainly affected him during training and matches, particularly in intense situations. The surgery essentially involved the burning of a section of heart muscle to contain electrical activity that was causing the excessive heart beat.
“Sometimes my heart beat used to go crazy high, like 240-250 sometimes. So we know that was a problem. It was sometimes crazy because when my heart beat goes that high I get a bit dizzy, and people close to me know exactly when it happened. After the Olympics, I got the surgery done and recovered for two weeks.
“This problem has been there a couple of years. With the Polar (monitor) on, we know a little bit more about the heart, and you can also see in other sports some people (with this problem). We knew I got the problem and I got some pills for it but I was not fully recovered and I wasn’t taking care of it so much. But we decided to do it after the Olympics. And I learned a little bit how to play with it.
“Everything was good, they fixed the problem, so no excuses anymore.”
With the heart condition behind him, is a new Mark Caljouw going to be on view? A Mark 2, in essence?
“It’s a bit of a fresh start. I think I’m still the same Mark as before, I fight for everything, but I think this helps me in my career.”