Friday, August 7

Grace opens new chapter in ‘amazing’ journey

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Grace Wong en route to her third Sukma gold in this file photo of the 2018 Perak Sukma.

SIBU: National athlete Grace Wong can’t wait to break out of her apartment in Bukit Jalil where she has been staying put during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and now Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).

The Sarikei-born is out to reclaim her status as the No. 1 hammer thrower in Southeast Asia.

She conceded, however, that a mountain of challenges await in her pursuit.

“It’s not easy but I will go for it. Now, with all my training programmes disrupted by the CMCO, I will need to work doubly hard after it is lifted in order to pick up from where I left after the CMCO went into effect last March 18,” she said.

Her biggest goal right now is to win the gold medal in the event in the 2021 SEA Games.

At the 2019 Games in Manila she was edged to the gold by Thailand’s Mingkamon Koomphon who won with a distance of 56.92m.

“I was heartbroken but that is life. I just need to accept it and move on,” said the first-year student of Asia Pacific University in Bukit Jalil.

A mere 6cm separated her from the gold and the RM20,000 cash incentive offered by the Malaysian government.

It’s hard to believe that the athlete dubbed ‘Amazing Grace’ is still only 20 years old.

The 1.57m (5’ 2”) tall thrower has a habit of beating bigger and older opponents since she broke into the scene as a 10-year-old pupil of SJK Hua Nam, Sarikei.

Born to a Malaysian father and Fijian mother, she was spotted by coach Ling Neng Thung who initially trained her for the shot put.

She won the first of multiple gold medals in the MSSM National Schools Meet as a shot putter when she was in Primary Five.

By the age of 14, she also became the youngest to represent Sarawak at the 2014 Malaysia Games (Sukma) when threw a distance of 55.82m to win the hammer and shatter the Sukma record.

She easily retained her Sukma title in 2016 and 2018 and looks to next year’s Johor Sukma as her swansong.

She made her SEA Games debut at the 2015 Games and remarkably collected a bronze aged 15.

She really hit the big time in 2017.

In April that year she broke the national record with a distance of 60.99m (200’1”) at an international meet in South Korea.

By the end of that year she was crowned the SEA Games champion with a new Games record of 59.24m.

Grace, however, admits that she has not been hitting the 60m mark for some time.

But she said she has ‘unfinished business’ as she looks forward to reviving her top form again.

During the lockdown, she could only do light exercises and strength conditioning within the confines of her apartment.

While her university mates have returned to their hometown after the CMCO was relaxed, Grace chose to stay back to do her studies and training.

“There are so many standard operating procedures (SOPs) to follow if we are to fly back to our hometown. So I decided to stay put at Bukit Jalil.

“Moreover, it would be more convenient for me to start training immediately under national coach Gu Yuan once the sport is given the green light to go ahead,” she said.