Springboarding to success

Cheong Jun Hoong bagged a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

HAILING from Ipoh, Cheong Jun Hoong had already been introduced to the world of diving at the tender age of nine. Handpicked from SRJK(C) Yuk Choy by China coach Zhou Xi Yang, Cheong and her family only knew of the sport when Zhou gave an introductory talk on diving.

Alongside the other children in the group, Cheong began training for the sport and the rest is, as they say, history. However, glory only came much later in her career when she bagged a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, and finally won gold in the women's 10m platform individual final at the 2017 World Aquatics Championship held in Budapest, Hungary in July this year.

Growing up, did you ever imagine yourself to be a national athlete?

Of course, I never imagined I would be one of the national athletes in Malaysia to compete worldwide, but I feel really proud to be a national athlete.

When the national anthem plays, our flag is raised high up, and that really does bring pride and joy to the whole nation, that feeling is simply amazing.

As an athlete, I never really thought much about it but when people around me are happy and excited while telling me they are so proud of me that was when I realised the impact of it all.

In another interview, your coach Yang Zhu Liang mentioned you were previously an inconsistent diver. What changed and made you to become a world champion?

Diving is a technique-based sport. You can't always yield the same result 100% – anything can happen during training and also competitions. That is why, the right techniques and consistent training is very important in diving.

My techniques were not great when I was younger, but I am truly grateful that coach Yang Zhu Liang and the other coaches didn't give up on me, including the important people behind the scenes.

Thanks to their hard work and dedication, I could become a world champion in diving today. Still, I will continue working hard to polish my techniques and try to be more consistent.

How do you persevere and continue working hard to achieve your goals as a world champion diver?

My mindset is to not give up easily. Since I had chosen this path, I need to continue until the very end. Whatever we choose to pursue, it will never be an easy task, even more so for me when I'm suffering from injuries but still need to train.

Coaches may be harsh at times, but I know it means they truly care and want me to excel. Without a coach to push me, I will never know if I could exceed my own limitations. I believe with my hard work and passion, one day I would succeed.

I admit I had been inconsistent in competitions in the past. Maybe even in the future, the same thing could happen too. Nobody is perfect all the time. But when bad things happen, I choose to be optimistic and stay strong despite the failures. I will choose to learn from mistakes and return stronger. It doesn't matter how many times you fall, what really matters is how you get back up. I truly believe persistence and perseverance leads to victory.

What's a typical day like for you?

I usually rise at 7.30am, have a regular breakfast, and then begin my training at 8.30am. Training sessions could sometimes be in the gym, dryland training for diving – it all depends on the coach's arrangement.

I break for lunch at noon, have a short nap, and resume training at 3pm. Then at 7pm, I have my dinner and rest. This is considered a full day of training. However, if we have studies or classes, we would need to inform our new arrangements with the coach.