Ex-para swimmer Amber Wong jumps out of the pool into new role, moulding future leaders

If there are two words Amber Wong (main image) holds dearly to, they are “believe” and “support”.

Wong, who turned 19 on April 7, has cerebral palsy. But that has not stopped the business student from living her life and lending a helping hand in creating future leaders. Upon completing her business certificate course at a leading college in Subang, she plans to pursue a diploma in marketing.

Wong was also a swimmer, having started formal classes when she was nine. In 2018, she competed in her first and only competition – the 50m backstroke event.

“I love swimming. I took classes as it was good for my health,” said Wong.

“I competed in my first tournament at the Paralympics Sports Complex in Kampung Pandan (Kuala Lumpur). It was fun!

“My family and friends have been supportive. It is important to have support.”

While Wong is no longer active in the pool, she has been busy assisting the organiser of the Inclusive Leadership Programme (iLeap). In fact, she ‘graduated’ from the programme – from being a participant in the inaugural edition in 2021, to being a part of the working committee for the upcoming event, scheduled from Dec 17-19 at the International Youth Centre in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

“In 2021, I was a participant. In 2022, I became a junior moderator. One of the things I did was to create games for the ice-breaking session,” said Wong.

“This year, I’m part of the working committee focusing on social media. I’m very happy to be a part of the committee, and to help out as much as I can.

“It is important to have the right support. There are times when I am nervous. My family and friends will always tell me ‘Amber, you can do it.’ I am happy to have their support, and for them to believe in me,” she said.

iLeap is a three-day workshop that focuses on four ‘cores’, essential for every young sports leader – sport values, healthy living (lifestyle), life skills, and social competency.

Organised by the Malaysian Olympism in Action Society (MOiAS), the programme features speakers that include athletes and former sports stars who have advanced in their professional careers. Volunteers for the programme also comprise present, and past athletes, who are experienced in various fields.

Tania Lee, MOiAS vice-president, was among those who came up with the idea of organising iLeap in 2021.

She stressed that the programme was about creating an inclusive environment to ensure able-bodied student athletes and non-able-bodied athletes understood each other better.

“It was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic that some of us started thinking of doing something online. We thought of a leadership programme, and it so happened that there were grants being offered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that came in at the right time,” said Lee.

The programme is for student-athletes aged between 13 and 18, and is open to para-athletes of all ages.

“The idea of this programme is to create competent leaders of the future. There is no better way than to start from young, when they are so much more open to learning.”

“We didn’t get this when we were younger. Even our non-able-bodied athletes did not get this sort of exposure in the past. This programme will also make able-bodied athletes understand the struggles of their non-able-bodied peers.”

Lee added that through the iLeap programme, she witnessed how capable the non-able-bodied participants were, as they worked alongside their able-bodied teammates.

“They (the non-able-bodied athletes) really made things work.”

Lee shared that her main motivation for organising this event came after teaching swimmers with disabilities, with one of her former students being Wong.

“That’s the beauty of this programme. It allows a participant to grow, and graduate to be a part of the working committee … to give back and inspire others.”

“We are very proud of Wong and the other team members who have contributed to iLeap. We hope to see more come in and be a part of iLeap,” she added.

Registration fee is RM350 per person, inclusive of food and accommodation, while it is RM50 each for participants with disabilities and those from the lower income groups.

Click on this link to register. Registration closes on Dec 4.

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