She’s a gold prospect, but they’re not telling her until she rolls over the competition like a runaway snowball from an avalanche. Champions have a winning habit, and Phoon Eyin, 21, already has two golds to her name from the 12th World Wushu Championships and the Myanmar SEA Games, both held in 2013. She’s the second world champion to emerge under Lim’s instruction, and moves with an inner force and intent that untrained eyes would never guess at from a casual meeting. Woe to the fool who tries to take her on in a dark alley.
Her introduction to wushu was as an asthmatic six-year-old in her hometown of Seremban, Negri Sembilan. Her mother had simply wanted her to be an active child and play a sport, and had only heard about wushu classes from a friend.
Phoon was happy to oblige to “just play” for a year, before showing she seriously liked wushu. “When I was seven,” she confirms. She continued to attend the Pei Hwa Chinese primary school, joining the local Chinese association to practise, and going for competitions. She transferred to Bukit Jalil Sports School before she was 15, and now has a Bachelor’s degree in food and science technology from Universiti Putra Malaysia.
There was no movie epiphany for Phoon. She likes Jackie Chan, but only because her mother likes him too. Bruce Lee and Michelle Yeoh are both “okay” because it’s “just a movie”. She does what she does because of what she does.
How did she feel when she was selected to represent the country?
“So happy! Because when I represented state, I had a dream to become part of the national team.”
Her friends see wushu as a “very aggressive” sport, but are piqued enough to keep asking her to perform for them. Wushu is popular among the Chinese community, she says, because the non-Chinese communities don’t really know it unless you say “kung fu”.
What we’d do without movies.
The Southeast Asian Games will take place between 19th and 30th August, 2017. The ASEAN Para Games will be held from 17th to 23rd September, 2017. This article was first published in Esquire Malaysia, August 2017.