KUALA LUMPUR: From a hammer thrower to an overcomer, this year will always remind Jackie Wong Siew Cheer that no obstacle is too huge for him. In just five months, strongman Jackie has returned from being a national athlete battling with Covid-19 to one who has come out tops in the first national trial recently held in Bukit Jalil by hurling a distance of 66.88m.
The mark is not his best but it reflected Jackie’s determination to put the past behind him.
The 27-year-old Jackie said it was all about taking the positives out of difficult situations.
“The national trial was my first tournament this year and first after my Covid-19 ordeal. I’m satisfied with the score but I believe there is a huge space for me to improve further, ” said Jackie, who holds the national record of 68.22m.
In March, Jackie was confirmed with Covid-19 but after 73 days in the hospital in Sibu, Sarawak, he returned to Kuala Lumpur for training in July.
“Initially, I was focused on fitness and conditioning, Now, I’m back in full swing in training. I’m looking forward to our second national trial next month. These trials keep the athletes motivated in training, ” he said.
His father, the Sarikei MP Wong Ling Biu had also tested positive but all is well at home.
“My dad is back home and my family are all in good shape, thank you for all the well wishes, ” he said.
Jackie said the experience had made him internally stronger too.
“I’ve no side effects from the virus but I admit that it was a challenging time for me. A turbulent time that God eventually turned into something beautiful for me, ” he said.
“I’m spiritually stronger. I start the day by praying and reading the Bible. I’m also more appreciative and love what I have, especially my family members.”
Jackie knows he will continue to face hurdles as he strives to become the best in hammer throw and life generally, but he is ready to face them.
“Not only me but everyone, local and foreign athletes are grappling with the season without competitions due to Covid-19. But this is when we have to be more resilient, motivated and positive, ” he said.
“We also need to keep our health in check, physically and mentally.”
Jackie is also appreciative of his coach Gu Yuan, who had guided him to breaking 17 national records throughout his career.
“She has been with me through my various failures and successes. I can’t find any reason for not respecting her. Even now, she evaluates our performance daily at night after our training, where encouragement and positive thinking are instilled, ” said the 2019 SEA Games silver medallist, who is hoping to peak at the next major assignments – the Asian championships in May and the SEA Games in Hanoi in November.
Asked what would he do when he calls time on his athletics career one fine day, the Universiti Putra Malaysia agriculture degree holder aptly replied: “I will go back to what I used to do as a boy - helping my dad at his oil palm plantation. Agriculture has always been my interest.”
Hoe for a hammer, it’s not surprising coming from the nation’s strongman. But for now, he aims to go the distance on track and field.