The first ever winter sports events will be held at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games and Anja Chong will be representing the nation in short track speed skating. Here she tells us what motivates her to reach her goals.
SEA Games used to only have summer sports events whereas this year will be the first year we have winter sports too, which is really exciting. I’ve also competed internationally and I’ve done the world cup series, which is basically the competition that will be the qualifiers for the Olympics.
Speed skating is similar to running around a track in that you skate for a certain number of laps on an 111m track and then you stop. The main difference is that in running you have lanes and every runner keeps to their lane, but in short track skating there is only one lane. So that means you’re fighting against other people and you need to overtake. What makes the sport exciting is that there are lots of tactics involved, especially when there’s a lot of adrenaline because it’s fast paced and there are a lot of people that you’re directly competing against.
I actually used to do figure skating and that’s kind of how I got into the sport. Then I went into short track speed skating for about a year before heading off to university. I quit skating for four years because of my studies, but when I heard that there was going to be short track at the SEA games here in Malaysia, that’s what motivated me to get back into the sport and to start training and hopefully to win for my country.
For me, I wanted to realise my potential and to see how far I can go. Skating has always been a passion of mine and that’s partly why I’ve always remained on ice somehow. I think that sport is a great vehicle to do a lot of other things that you are passionate about in life. They go hand-in-hand.
Being an athlete has taught me a lot of things. Sport is a special world where I think it teaches you a lot of things at a faster rate than when you’re outside in the real world. When I was younger I had to deal with a lot of failure and how to overcome failure and learn about perseverance and hard work and having some grit.
In this day and age, everything is so fast paced—when you work on something, you want to see the results right there, especially with technology being so available to us. I think sport teaches you to attain some grit which is working hard but working hard over a sustained period of time and for a future goal. So it taught me a lot, not just for when I’m competing but for out there in the working world and your everyday life as well.
I find motivation in several things. One is that we don’t come from a winter country, so I hope to be good enough to inspire other people and show that just because we come from a tropical country, it doesn’t mean we can’t excel at winter sport. I hope we can excel not just in winter sports, but in sports in general. We come from an Asian culture where education is very important and sport is generally regarded as less so when compared to western cultures. We’ve had many athletes who’ve been great but it’s just building that culture that can say ‘Just because we’re from Malaysia, it doesn’t mean we can’t be the best in the world.’