KUCHING: Sarawak’s rising swimming star Erika Kong could have done better than just winning the bronze medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke in the recent SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos.
Her father, Anthony Kong, said Erika, down for 200m individual medley and 100m breast stroke, produced the two worst swims he had ever seen as her personal coach.
“In fact, Erika could have even won silver or gold if not for her stage fright and feeling intimidated by the older competitors.“At 14, she is the youngest in the national squad but had to swim against 20-yearolds,” he added.
Apart from finishing third in the 100m breast stroke, Erika was a finalist in the 200m individual medley.
The second former from Lodge International School Kuching was selected after winning gold medals in the two events in the First Malaysian Mini Olympics in Kuala Lumpur last August.
Kong said her daughter had posted better times in training but, somehow, nerves got the better of her in Laos.
“However, I do feel proud she has brought back a bronze medal as the only female swimmer from Sarawak. Her training mates from the Kuching Amateur Swimming Association (KASA) are also happy for her,” he said at a gathering on Wednesday night to celebrate Erika’s achievement.
Some 30 people, including parents and members of KASA, attended the function.
Kong hoped Erika’s success would inspire other young KASA swimmers to train hard and win sporting honours for the country.
“I always tell the younger swimmers if Erika can win in state and national championships, they can also do the same so long as they are prepared to work very hard and make sacrifices.” He said Erika trained up to four hours daily for six days every week under a very rigid training programme.
Kong, also KASA secretary, was happy the association had been able to produce swimmers not only for state and national competitions but also regional meets.
According to him, Erika’s target for next year is to qualify for either the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi or the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, or both.
Her other achievements this year are 17 gold and one silver medals and seven records in the 21st Kuching Age Group Championship; one gold, five silver and one bronze medals in MSSM 2009 in Shah Alam, Selangor and three gold, four silver and three bronze medals and three records in the 45th National Age Group in Selangor.
In the 33rd Southeast Asia Age Group in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, she won one gold and two silver medals.
Erika was also picked to swim for the country in the First Asian Youth Games in Singapore but the Malaysian contingent aborted the trip due to the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak.