Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Unknown Woon pays his way from US to compete in Games

THE journey to the Korat SEA Games has been a long and tough one for Malaysian marathon runner Woon Chan Yew and it’s not over yet.

He had to train under sub-zero temperatures, pay US$1,600 (RM5,200) for air ticket and endure a 20-hour flight from Iowa via Los Angeles to reach Kuala Lumpur, all because he wanted to represent the country in the Games.

Who is Chan Yew? He was born in Kuala Lumpur 28 years ago, works as an assistant dining service manager at the University of Iowa, the United States, and is down to run in the marathon.

But gaining his berth to the Games was also an uphill one. Not many in Malaysia knew about him and his ability to compete at such a high level. After all he has never won anything significant.

Upon arriving in Korat, he told Bernama: “I started running in the marathon one year ago and won a local meet. The local press covered it and last month I sent the press clipping to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) when I found out that the athletics squad to Korat was not finalised yet.

“A series of e-mails were exchanged and my winning time of 2’32:00 convinced the OCM to give me a chance.

“I had to fork out my own money to pay the air ticket and had to convince my bosses to allow me to take leave to compete here. I cannot promise a gold medal for Malaysia but I have promised the OCM that I will give my best and not give up. I will fight and fight on until the very last.

“That’s my promise to the OCM and the Malaysia Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU),” said Chan Yew.

Not many are expecting Chan Yew to strike gold but he is here under the Category A ticket, which means he is a medal prospect, but more importantly he is already a winner in his own right.

But win or lose for Chan Yew, after the Games he will have to work on his off days when he goes back to make up for the leave he has taken to be part of the Games.

“But I guess it’s all right with me. The experience of the Games and the chance to represent my country is worth it,” said Chan Yew.

The commitment and sacrifice shown by Chan Yew also received a round of applause from MAAU vice-president Karim Ibrahim who said his attitude should serve as an example to others.

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