Fencing, aquatics, bowling, wushu and shooting. What do they all have in common? These are sports that not everyone can master, much less represent their own state in competitions. These are sports that demand intense training and immense concentration.
For this month’s Meet the Stars article, ECHO brings forth the unsung athletes who play these distinctive sports. Although these sports are popular and played worldwide, they haven’t made a splash in Malaysia’s sports world. Echo is proud to present to you Sunway’s highly accomplished underdog athletes in this article.
CHONG HONG LI- FENCING
At the age of 8, Chong Hong Li, influenced by his mom, took up fencing as a hobby. The half Sarawakian was scouted by a representative after winning a Sarawak competition and was selected into the Sarawak state team when he was 16. Now, the 18-year-old is currently pursuing A-Levels in Sunway.
The weapons in fencing are known as disciplines. Among the three disciplines in fencing, Hong Li is more fond of the ‘foil’ as it is more tactical. With that said, he does also enjoy playing the sabre and the epee with his friends. Note that winning points in fencing are scored through the weapon’s contact with an opponent.
His biggest achievement throughout his fencing career is that he became champion at the young age of 13 in Fencing Foil at the Y-Spark International Competition held in Singapore. Hong Li prepares for competitions with a goal in his mind that he has to achieve. He believes that the outcome of a competition is the fruit of his hard work. Tournaments mould him to strive better in fencing and fuel his motivation.
Hong Li says the biggest obstacle he has faced so far would be the Movement Control Order (MCO). Since fencing is a highly challenging sport that requires special equipment and a facility to train, MCO proved to be difficult as most of the facilities were not operating. Hong Li could only do regular workouts and training. However, fencing is a sport that requires high accuracy and tactical strategy. Fortunately, his club organised online training to get through the pandemic and guided him to avoid losing touch with fencing.
As an athlete himself, Hong Li understands the pressure that national athletes carry. He sympathises with them as the public criticises the tournament results but doesn’t see the hardships and sacrifices behind it. “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, but fencing is not. Being at the top requires a lot of hard work, discipline, and motivation. You cannot give up easily just because you are not going anywhere. For the time being, you have to keep working hard. There is, and there will be bumps along the road and if you don’t overcome it, you won’t get to the place that you want to. Don’t focus only on your goal, but focus on your journey also.” This is what Hong Li would say to his past self if he could travel back in time.
Besides, the 18-year-old feels that this scholarship has validated him for taking the right path for his future. Through the Sunway Scholarship, Hong Li hopes to give back to his parents as they have supported him emotionally and financially throughout his passion for fencing.
ENG KAH YI- AQUATICS
Eng Kah Yi, a 20-year-old who is currently doing her second year in Bachelor of Accounting and Finance, was first introduced to swimming at the tender age of 6. Initially, her parents sent her and her siblings to a variety of enrichment classes such as piano, drawing and swimming. Kah Yi developed a deep interest in swimming and started training for it. For the swimmer, sports is a fun and enjoyable activity that strengthens the bonds between her friends and keeps her spirited. At the age of 10, she represented her district, and a few months later, she got the opportunity to represent her state, Pahang.
When asked what Kah Yi’s greatest challenge was, she said she was close to giving up when she couldn’t beat her personal best, which was 32 seconds. No matter how hard she trained, she felt more despaired. Her coach helped her to come out from her slump by advising her that it was something that many athletes faced, and giving up now would only mean accepting total defeat. After one or two years of training by not giving up on herself, she managed to achieve a higher personal best, 30 seconds that motivates her to reach higher heights.
To not brood over the setbacks that are faced but instead take the opportunity that is presented right in front of you is what Kah Yi believes in. The quote that encourages her until now is that ‘when one door closes, another door opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us’ which is from the great Alexander Graham Bell.
One very crucial point that she has learnt from being an athlete is the value of failure. From her point of view, every athlete should accept success with humility and accept defeat with honour. According to her, this is said because everyone should savour the moment of triumph and learn from every moment of loss. Moreover, she also shared that not everything can go the way we plan it to be. Kah Yi has a positive outlook on life no matter what may come.
Kah Yi’s role model is her first coach who is from China that looks after her and has driven her this far in her sports career. She is grateful for all the things that he has done for her. To those who aspire to be her, Kah Yi encourages them “be your own unique self” instead of trying to be someone else and get others validation. Everyone is special in their own way!
As a child, Kusselin tagged along with her parents to the bowling alley and an interest dawned in herself for bowling. A coach approached her father if he was interested in sending his daughter for appropriate training. With immense training, she debuted in an official competition when she was 10 by representing her primary school. Later, in 2011, she represented Kedah in MSSM.
Kusselin has an impressive record in bowling. The event that created the most impactful memory for her was her MSSM 2017. She became the first female who led her team to the nationals. That year, Kusselin and her team managed to steal the thunder from the long-running champion Selangor and Wilayah by winning a total of 10 gold medals. Kusselin contributed to a few of the gold medals, especially in the Masters Event. Despite the technical issues that occurred and sacrificing their sleep until the wee hours of the morning, their passion drove them to victory. Kusselin also represented Kedah in SUKMA 2018.
Before the pandemic, she usually trained 3 days a week, but she increased her training to 5 days a week when tournaments were near. And when it was a national or state competition, Kusselin trained twice a day for 5 days per week. Group training was not allowed when the MCO was first introduced, so she switched to individual training. It was difficult, but she overcame it with perseverance. Kusselin claims that due to her years in Chinese school, she handled stress very well. Hence, she is able to balance her education and sports life through a thoroughly planned timetable.
To quote Kusselin, bowling is a psychological sport that requires immense patience. Bowling needs precise timing and the right score to win, as bowling is a sport that is played by a high level of focus. Some athletes that start off strong should be careful and not be overconfident because they can fall anytime. On the other hand, those who don’t come off strong in the beginning need to be patient and regain their momentum. Bowling has also taught Kusselin to be consistent and cautious due to the fact that every mark counts.
For Kusselin, her mother is her heroine. Because her family is not well off and bowling is a costly sport, her mother had to work extra hard to support Kusselin’s dream. A few years later, Kusselin got to secure a sports scholarship with Sunway. This is how she can pay back to her mother, who has done so much for her. She holds on to the quote that “it always seems impossible until it’s done”. She says this because since young, she had been told that attending Sunway seemed like a far-fetched dream, but Kusselin proved them wrong. She is now 21 years old and a student in Sunway. This shows, dreams that are dreamt are meant to be achieved.
LAUREN TAN HUI LIN- WUSHU
Lauren is the youngest athlete in this article. The 17-year-old is doing her ACCA while being Sunway’s very own Jet Li. Wushu is a contemporary Chinese martial art that has been practiced since a long time ago. Lauren first started Wushu at the age of 7 because her parents were avid fans of Chinese martial arts movies. Lauren started to take her training more seriously when she turned 10. She qualified for the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Team Selection.
Lauren’s motivation to continue Wushu is through the support from her friends who were also in the team. Wushu allowed her to de-stress while relaxing her mind and soul. The adrenaline rush that she felt when she stepped on the carpet was another driving force for Wushu. One of Lauren’s biggest goals is to represent Malaysia in international tournaments. She speaks proudly of a national competition in 2019 where she won second place.
In 2018, Lauren participated in SUKMA but unfortunately injured herself and had to be carried out with a stretcher. From this, she had to endure pain mentally and physically. She revealed that she had a disintegrating disc in her spine that is incurable and suffers constant back pains, especially after vigorous training. She had to undergo rehabilitation to lessen her back pain. Even after everything she has gone through, Lauren challenges herself to go further.
Lauren has a strong support system. Her parents are there to help her and her teachers are understanding. Even at a young age, Lauren seems to grasp the fact that winning isn’t everything. She has a fierce mindset that giving the best is what matters. Lauren also shared how to eat and rest well before the tournament because it is essential in order to perform better.
The MCO impacted her in a way that cut down her physical training. This demotivated her as she could only carry out online training. Without company, Lauren felt blank to stare at the screen and train by herself. But after talking with her coach, she pulled herself together and focused on honing her skills. Then, Lauren also shared that her coach is her role model. She admires his passion for Wushu. The 17-year-old clearly shows an attitude of someone who does not give up easily.
LEE SHU JI- SHOOTING
For Lee Shu Ji, shooting was something she was attracted to at a very young age. As a child, Shu Ji followed her brother, who was once a state athlete to a shooting range. Shu Ji found uniqueness in hearing the shots that were fired. Conveniently, her secondary school has a shooting range located in front of it and her school has shooting as a co-curricular activity. At the age of 18, she was selected to join the Selangor State Team.
Generally, in sports events, three types of guns are used- rifles, pistols and shotguns. Shu Ji prefers a variety of pistols which are the air pistol and the sport pistol. The difference between both pistols is the distance required to fire a shot, the calibre degree, and the recoil force after firing. Like the others, she has a few training buddies who share the same passion and interest for shooting.hence, she enjoys the sport more.
When asked about her greatest achievement so far, Shu Ji said she had the honour to participate as a Sunway student and snag 7th place in a competition. In the upcoming SUKMA, she hopes she has the opportunity to win a medal in the air pistol and sport pistol event. Like the rest of the athletes due to the MCO, Shu Ji’s training had to be put on halt because all shooting ranges were restricted. At the same time, she encourages others to know that there is always a rainbow at the end of a rain and that things will get back on track for everyone.
One of the most impressive things that she shared about the best part of shooting is challenging herself to do better. Shu Ji hopes to beat her own highest achievements. Her challenging spirit, however, is a double-edged sword. Shu Ji feels frustrated when she cannot perform well and starts questioning her abilities. And to overcome these, she has self-reflecting moments where she learns from her shortcomings and moves on.
After witnessing the Malaysian national shooter Joseline Cheah up close in action, Shu Ji became a fan of her fantastic marksmanship. She is proud to say that the national athlete is her role model and is a massive inspiration for her. Shu Ji is also grateful for Sunway’s scholarship and hopes to live up to it.
Dear readers, after reading all these wonderful accomplishments, how about hitting up the bowling alley? Try reading up more on fencing. Make an effort to watch live telecasts of shooting competitions. Let’s support these admirable stars in their journey in achieving success!
Written by: Isabel and Poorani
Edited by: Maki