Wong Weng Son, 25, is the most recent world champion to be instructed by Lim. After a series of silver medals starting with the Asean University Games in 2012 in Vientiane, Laos, he took the gold for the men’s jianshu (spear) event at the Asian Wushu Championships in Taiwan last year, repeating the feat at the First World Wushu Cup in Fuzhou, China.
He started out in sports as a sprinter, but soon realised that he needed longer legs to compete with the very best. “I got into wushu because of my dad, who was a lion dancer. My mum made all my wushu uniforms. She used to work part-time for a baju kurung tailor.”
Wong, who has the explosive speed and power of a man who might have been born doing plyometrics, was selected to represent Malaysia at 13 years old, but he rejected the offer because his parents were concerned about whether he could look out for himself.
He was again selected when he was 17, then trained with the national team for three years, making his way through the local competition circuit first.
“So, they (the athletes in international competition) were all training full time; they were all given a salary. We were only allowed to take some courses so that we could focus on training,” says Wong.
What would he be doing if he weren’t a wushu athlete? He thinks for a while.
“Wushu is our work,” quips coach Lim Yew Fai.
“Actually, I would like to appear on billboards and for all the publishers to have my photos,” says Wong. He’s hip to the currency of images in hypermediated times. The world pivots east, and martial arts can only get bigger.
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.