As a young boy, Chaw Zhan Yi would watch Bruce Lee movies, taking inspiration from the daring exploits he saw on screen.
Little did he know that one day, those movies would spark him on a martial arts journey that would see him winning two international bronze medals for Malaysia.
The 23-year-old Bachelor of Hospitality Management student from Quest International University (QIU) doubled his international tally after he won a bronze medal in the recent 1st Pan-American Taekwondo Virtual Tournament.
Chaw’s bronze medal came in the Individual Male 18-35 Years Pattern 1 Dan category and helped Malaysia finish ninth overall, with two golds, four silvers and six bronzes.
It was a different challenge compared to normal competitions, as the global lockdown meant that participants needed to record a video of themselves performing the patterns.
The level of competition was no mean feat either, as more than 500 athletes from countries like Japan, Australia, Canada and the US took part.
But this didn’t faze Chaw, who has been practising Taekwondo since he was only eight. Along the way to his bronze, he defeated a 2019 international champion from Colombia.
And despite the fact that he’s made the country proud, he’s not resting on his laurels.
“I’m glad that I could make it to the semi-finals, but after watching all the performances from the elite competitors, I think I need to improve to prepare for the next national championship,” he said.
Chaw’s steely determination has been forged across numerous competitions since his youth.
The Pan-American championship is the second time he’s represented Malaysia, as he won a bronze medal in free sparring in 2009—when he was only 11.
To maintain his edge, he practices at least twice a week. And while it was a challenge to balance his studies and his art, Chaw credits his lecturers for their support.
“The competition was based halfway across the globe, so I couldn’t record my submission at night. I couldn’t go to the gym either because of the MCO,” he said.
“I had to sacrifice my lectures from time to time, but my lecturers were always supportive. Even though I couldn’t join the class, they helped me catch up so I wasn’t left behind.”