HANOI - At the tender age of six, Kimberly Ong had to make a choice: wushu or ballet. Like any other kid, she went with her heart and chose wushu as she simply preferred it.
She has certainly made the right choice. On her SEA Games debut in Vietnam yesterday, the 20-year-old clinched a gold in the women’s daoshu and gunshu combined event after scoring 19.37 points.
It was a Singapore 1-2 in the event as fellow debutante Zoe Tan took silver with a total of 19.33 ahead of Vietnam’s Thi Phuong Giang Hoang (19.16) at the Cau Giay Gymnasium.
Ong was still in disbelief after her event but elated with the result. She said: “When I came, I didn’t have huge expectations, I just wanted to do my best. I think I’ve shown what I’ve trained for and the intensive training the past few months has paid off.”
She had been third after the gunshu segment on Friday but was not worried about her placing.
“I told myself to think more positively and knew that as long as I did a clean performance today, I would be on the podium. I would also have been pleased with third and anything higher is a bonus.
“I was very nervous before it was my turn but I realised that it’s not as scary as I thought so I tried my best to enjoy my performance.”
Ong made the switch to wushu after watching her brother practise it and realised she preferred the sharper movements used in the sport.
But it was only when she was 11 that she decided to pursue it more competitively after winning a few medals at the National School Games. She entered the national youth team in Secondary 2 and has not looked back since.
Ong, who will be in action again today in the women’s changquan, said: “I definitely think I made the right choice. Wushu has helped me in many different ways, become more resilient and self-disciplined.
“I’m thankful I embarked on this journey and I hope there will be better days to come.”
Tan, 17, was also surprised to clinch a medal on her debut and hopes to compete in bigger events like the Asian Games and world championships.
She said: “I was in better condition today because I was very anxious yesterday as it’s my first major competition and I didn’t know what to expect.
“I was overwhelmed (by the crowd) but they weren’t just cheering for Vietnam and they were happy to cheer for other countries as well.”
Ong’s gold was the second of the day after Chan Jun Kai won the men’s taijijian earlier despite nursing a stomachache before the event. He had claimed a bronze in the same event at the 2017 Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Chan, 21, scored 9.72 to finish ahead of Indonesia’s Nicholas Nicholas (9.71) and Jones Llabres Inso of the Philippines (9.70).
After not being selected for the 2019 SEA Games, Chan regrouped from that disappointment to finish his campaign in Hanoi strong, with one gold and one bronze (men’s taijiquan).
He said: “Initially I was a little worried (about the stomachache affecting me) but I didn’t let it get to my head and the physiotherapist assisted and checked on me so after a while I was able to get myself back on track.
“Today’s performance was so much better than yesterday’s. I was able to express myself better and I was less tense.
“(Since not being selected in 2019), I’ve put in a lot of hard work in training so that I can compete in the SEA Games and be on this stage again. I definitely want to train harder and hope there will be more opportunities to represent Singapore and do the country proud.”