By Chris Teh
Being a full-time athlete is a career that can be fraught with difficulties, but for renowned Olympian diving athlete Leong Mun Yee, her goals spurred her on.
Born and bred in Ipoh, 34-year-old Leong, who is currently residing in Bukit Jalil, received her early education in Marian Convent Primary Girls School located along Jalan Raja DiHilir before moving to Bukit Jalil Sports School in Kuala Lumpur when she was 11.
“I was originally swimming with my brother. After my parents brought me to the diving tryouts when I was 10, I got the passion to stay in diving,” she mentioned, citing her parents as an inspiration to her diving career. “The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur was my debut in a major competition but the most memorable experience was the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney because that was the first-ever Olympic competition I had participated in.”
Shaking off the myth that diving is an easy sport, Leong revealed that the training schedule for diving requires comparably longer duration than any other form of sport.
“We have morning and evening training sessions totalling up to around eight hours daily. It is not only diving into the pool from a maximum height of 10m, but we also have gym and dryland training beforehand, therefore it is quite challenging to be a diver indeed,” she revealed.
“Hardships are inevitably present in an athletic career, but to me, I would say that the most trying times would be dealing with injuries,” Leong stated, mentioning that she had previously sustained injuries on her wrist and ligaments.
There are six types of diving groups, categorised by numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 which respectively represent forward, backward, reverse, inward, twist and handstand.
“Divers must be familiar with all styles. In competitions, male divers have to perform all six categories, while female divers need only choose five out of the six,” Leong clarified. “In the Olympics, there are four events for male divers and four events for female divers; eight events in total. It needs to be noted that the four events are the same for both genders, which are 3-metre springboard diving, 10-metre platform diving, 3-metre synchronised diving and 10-metre synchronised diving.”
Alluding to the fact that her team qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after partner Pandelela Rinong won a silver medal at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, Korea recently, Leong hopes that training will resume in China in August if all goes well.
“We’re still uncertain about a lot of details but hopefully, we will manage to stay in form until the 2020 Olympics,” Leong highlighted, revealing to Ipoh Echo that the 2020 Olympics will indeed be her swan-song in sports.
“I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree in corporate communication at Universiti Putra Malaysia and I own a small business in Bukit Jalil, so I will venture on that path in the future,” she explained on her retirement plan from competitive diving, hinting at the possibility of marriage in the future.
“I’m thankful to my family for their unending support and everyone who motivated me forward in my career. I was able to be where I am today because of them,” she expressed gratefully.
In town on a break from training, Leong stated that she missed Ipoh very much because of her parents, the food and the environment.
“It is at times challenging to be far from home. My parents are here, which is why I stayed longer this round to spend more quality time with them,” she mentioned. “Also, I miss Ipoh for the fact that it is a food paradise and I definitely love the environment here.”
Being in sports for more than 20 years, Leong, who has won countless medals from Southeast Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, FINA Diving World Series and FINA Diving Grand Prix, stressed the importance of discipline and having goals to upcoming athletes.
“It’s not only for diving itself. Whichever sport one pursues, there must be a goal set to be completed in a self-given time frame. Give your best efforts, work hard and never give up easily, no matter how tough it might get. This is how you improve yourself,” she advised.
Leong can be followed on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on her training and lifestyle.