Striking a balance between academics and sports is not an easy task but these scholars have somehow managed to do just that. Thus, Echo is proud to present, “Meet the Stars”, epitomizing the stories of these scholars who have gone above and beyond to rewrite history and make their dreams a reality.
For these Badminton players and Taekwondo athletes, competitions have set the stage for them to shine. With every move they make, it brings them closer to becoming the next Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Elaine Teo. With that said, let us take a look at their stories and how it has shaped and moulded them to become the person they are today.
Shaun Wong Yau Xiang
Currently, a student at Victoria University who is majoring in Accounting, Shawn started playing badminton at the tender age of 5 with his father just outside his house compound. Just 5 years after he started playing badminton, he was then recruited to play for the Putrajaya National Circuit at 10 years old. 2 years later, he also started representing the Selangor State at Majilis Sukan Sekolah-Sekolah Malaysia (MSSM) tournaments.
Even after 16 years, the achievements at various tournaments have been his motivation to continue on this journey in pursuing badminton. As an athlete, Shaun hopes that one day he will be able to represent his country, Malaysia. Despite not getting selected by the Badminton Association Malaysia (BAM) when he went for selection, Shaun still hopes to be able to play and represent the university.
At just 16 years old, Shaun was the finalist at the biggest Badminton event in Malaysia, Grand Prix. A year later, he went on to win the MSSM 2017. Up till today, MSSM 2017 remains one of his most impactful memories since he was finally able to achieve his target during the last year of secondary school. To be able to play competitively comes with its own set of challenges but Shaun has managed to learn that a lot of effort is required in order to achieve the goal and the same principle applies to life itself too. When asked about the biggest setback he has had to face thus far, Shaun recalls the time he had injuries on his knee and ankle that resulted from the jumping. The injuries slowed him down in his career but since then, he has strived to overcome them.
In order to manage his time between his academics and sports, Shaun usually goes to school in the morning and begins his training in the evening with a jog before doing some court training after that. Preparations for any competition and tournaments are necessary for the journey of striving to win the gold medal. For Shaun, preparations usually start a month prior to the competitions. He prepares himself both physically and mentally to ensure that in the end, he does not have any regrets.
Steve Eng Chun Yu
As an 8-year-old kid, Steve’s parents brought him to play Badminton just for the sole purpose of strengthening his body. Now, at the age of 20, he is currently studying for a Diploma in Business Administration and has been representing the Kedah State since he was 12.
Currently playing doubles as well as mixed doubles, Steve also used to play singles before this. Between the two of these, Steve enjoys doubles since it is not that tiring and he does not need to run the whole court. According to him, singles are more demanding in terms of the difficulty of training and it also relies more on the person themselves.
Achieving runner up at the Thailand Open has been his highest achievement thus far. Although he lost to a Korean player, Steve was still happy for coming this far considering that there were players who were way more professional than him. Moving forward, Steve hopes to be able to represent Sunway College and Sunway University in the MAHASISWA games.
Once, Steves’ father advised him not to be lazy and told him that nothing good would come from being lazy. The advice that his father gave him has stuck with him and been his source of motivation ever since. When asked about his most unforgettable moments, Steve recalls the time he was the leader of the state team. As the leader, he constantly provided his fellow teammates with motivation and encouraged them to not let one loss define the loss of the entire team.
Just like everything else in life, the journey is not always smooth sailing. The biggest challenge that he has had to face was a knee injury at 16. As a result of that injury, Steve was unable to carry out intense training such as running. Even then, his passion for sports showed when he continued to polish up certain skills to overcome the stress and worries of lagging behind his teammates. Whenever he is faced with losses, Steve always tries to bounce back better and stronger. In order to ensure that he does not neglect sports for his academics or even the other way around, Steve finds arranging a schedule to be helpful.
In Steve’s opinion, Badminton has been able to bring glory to our country’s name. He believes that this has something to do with Datuk Lee Chong Wei as well and the rising Lee Zii Jia. Fun fact, he believes that the reason why Malaysia’s badminton skills are being recognized at an international stage is because of body size. This is because in general Asians have a much smaller body size compared to westerners. The difference in body size might have provided westerners with an advantage. However, when it comes to badminton, it is not that much about body size but more about agility, stamina and skill.
Lastly, Steve hopes to be able to do well in future games and bring glory to the Sunway name as he would not want to waste the scholarship that’s been graciously given to him.
Do you remember Ultraman or Power Rangers? It might bring back memories, but for 22-year old Leong Harn who is currently doing a degree in communications at Sunway University, it was an inspiration that drawed him to Taekwondo when he was 7 years of age.
He then started competing at the age of 10 and got to the state level at the age of 13.He even competed in the World Games held in Malaysia where he fought against a Thai participant and sadly lost in the first round. This competition was an eye-opener to Leong Harn as his competitor defeated him in a matter of seconds. He also considers himself as an underdog in his field of sport due to his height. However, Leong Harn never gave up and strives to train harder to fuel his motivation and empower his sports journey, not to forget breaking the common stereotype that sports are only for the coconut trees.
That adrenaline rush when he enters the ring is by far Leong Harn’s most exciting moment about Taekwondo. With the adrenaline also comes ordeals, while during his journey there was a period when he was barely winning any medals. He tried and tried, competition after competition, nothing but failure and anguish. Nevertheless, alongside very supporting parents, he trained persistently and kept on going. He even claims that his success is also his parent’s success.
Was once no one, at the age of 16, Leong Harn’s efforts were finally fruitful as his talents were recognised by many, and medals were found thudding his chest. He admits the road has been rough but without effort nothing you wish for will come easy. He’s training sessions are from 7pm to 10pm not including other sports like swimming or workout he does in the evenings. While the current pandemic has reduced the number of training sessions, he admits that he barely had time for himself juggling his sport as a student before. Leong Harn even coaches the younger kids in Taekwondo.
Passion is his name for Taekwondo. A game he enjoys and knows like the back of his hand. A common choice for athletes and the biggest question ever, ‘is it going to be your degree or your sport in the future?’. Well, Leong Harn has said that whatever he chooses Taekwondo will always be a part of him that coexists in everything he plans to do in the future. Whether it be part time or leisure because he cannot imagine life without training as to quote him ‘I will go sideways’.
His role model is his very own coach as he used to believe that Taekwondo was all about kicking but there is actually a lot of technique and skill involved in every movement. That is why, he is ever so grateful to his coach who has molded him with the necessary expertise and lifted him to where he is today. Not to mention, a really good friend who has backed Leong Harn up for the past 8 years.
Leong Harn is truly grateful for the scholarship offered as it helps ease the financial burden on his family and also paves the way to his aspiration of a great experience at Sunway University.
Lee Yui (Henry)
Meet Lee Yui alias Henry, a 20-year-old, currently doing a diploma in computer science at Sunway University and is also the President of the Sunway Taekwondo Club. He represents the Perlis State and has even competed in the Malaysian open G1 2018 competition. He has competed with different people from different countries and he is honoured to get to learn more when communicating and being able to meet up with his fellow black belters from all over the world.
Before any tournament, Henry mentally prepared himself by always reminding himself to enjoy the moment. This is also to avoid the feeling of being nervous. He understands that it is natural to feel nervous in pressuring situations however, reminding oneself that they have worked hard and should do their best helps them get through it.
As for physical preparation, Henry trains every day for at least 2 to 3 hours during this pandemic and he believes the training is enough to prepare himself for a fight. His time management skills, which includes handling classes and tasks during the mornings to afternoons, then later training in the evening, is proof of his discipline.
Henry also claims that he enjoys the feeling of competing healthily. His favourite quote is from LeBron James that so wisely said ‘don’t be afraid of failure, this is how you succeed’ and he has kept that to heart in his sports journey.
Finally, Henry encourages all youngsters and fellow sportsmen to cheer up during this pandemic and especially keep yourself healthy. Simple weights and home workouts are enough for a healthy body, mind and soul.
There you have it Ladies and Gentlemen, an inspirational batch of young sprouting athletes who might one day be the faces you’ll see on your screen for the Olympic season. Root for them today and they’ll become our pride soon.
Written By: Jamie and Sumitra
Edited By: Maki