It’s not very often that you’ll encounter someone who embrace strenuous challenges and makes a career out of it. For this week’s segment of Featured Interview, meet Irene Chong, the epitome of iron lady who evolved over time to remain competitive in her field and stuck by her dreams with her head held high. With her recent success in the SEA Games 2017, Sevenpie had the privilege get Irene to share about her journey as a triathlon athlete, as well as some wisdom which our readers can learn for the New Year. Here it is:
1. Hello Irene! Please tell us more about yourself to our readers.
Hi everyone! My name is Irene and I’m a Malaysia’s triathlon athlete. I am a playful person who loves taking on challenging stuff. I started to learn swimming when I was 5 years old, that’s where I fell in love with sports. I enjoyed almost every water-related sports, especially water polo & synchronized swimming. I changed from swimming to synchronize swimming after discovering that I stand a bigger chance to compete for a spot in SUKMA 2004. My teammates and I won a silver medal as a team.
My journey in triathlon started after one of my friends brought me to a cycling outing in Putrajaya and she then asked me to join relay in triathlon. It was after that outing which made me seriously considered about getting myself into triathlon. It started off pretty rough at first due to limited financial resources so I resorted to training with bicycles which I lent from my friends. Slowly but surely, I captured the attention of sponsors after I’ve won a couple of medals.
2. So, what were you up to after winning the bronze medal at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games back in August?
After the Sea Games, I have 2 week off from training. Then I started my university life in September. It was great to be able to enjoy my university life again with my junior.
3. Share with us your journey during your transitional period from being a synchronized swimmer to a triathlon athlete.
I started synchronized swimming when I was 13 years old and change to triathlon when I was 18 years old. As I mentioned earlier, I’m quite playful and active back in the days so I followed my friend for a cycling trip in Putrajaya and she realized I have the potential in triathlon so she asked to join the relay as a swimmer in triathlon race. It got me really excited that I started my triathlon training almost immediately. Just like any other sports, it was pretty hard to start everything from scratch but I enjoyed my transitional journey thoroughly.
4. Since we’re approaching the end of the year, what are some of your highlights in 2017?
5. What are your plans to welcome the brand new year?
I’ve never had a proper countdown experience before because I always have to go to bed early to prep myself for training sessions during the next day so this time around, I’ll hit town with my juniors for countdown celebrations.
6. Are there any big plans which will be taking place in 2018?
Hmm…..It’s definitely the 70.3 Ironman Malaysia.
7. Who are your inspirations? And why?
8. Aside from sports, what are the other things you enjoy doing during your leisure time?
I love skateboarding, movies, hunting for nice desserts around town, as well as doing crazy things with my friend. There was one time where my friends and I got up really early in the morning, hopped onto our Obike and cycled our way out for breakfast. But in the end we had to walk back home because it was too dangerous for us to cycle back home when the traffic gets bad.
9. What keeps you going during the toughest days?
My dreams. I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve my goals in life.
10. What are your favourite cycling and running routes in Malaysia?
I love the GCE route as I find that there are many strong cyclist who also opt that route. I like to have a little race with them once a while.
11. Given a choice, if there’s one person in the world (person from the past or present) who you can have a dinner date, who will it be, and why?
I will choose to have a dinner date with my grandfather. I’ve been training hard during the past 4 years, chasing my ‘medal dream’ for the SEA Games. It didn’t went well in 2015 so I started to fully focus on Sea Games 2017 where I finally realize my dream. I spent very little time with my grandfather during that period and all was too late when he passed away last October due to an accident.
12. What is your life motto?
13. There are not many people out there who get to do and earn from what they love, some people just doesn’t have the courage to do so. What are you advice to these people?
I truly understand the statement above as I have friends who’re in the same situation. Which is why sometimes I will embark on a crazy adventure with them; doing things that they really wanted to do. So, I would say that it’s good to be that one friend who encourages others during times of doubt.