There is life after sports, as former national diver Leong Mun Yee is proving.
The 37-year-old is the only Malaysian to qualify for five Olympic Games – 2000 (Sydney), 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London) and 2020 (Tokyo).
The diver-turned businesswoman originally opened Heroes Cafe next to the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil, but after undergoing an entrepreneurship course organised by the National Sports Council (NSC), Leong received a grant that enabled her to move to a bigger premises.
“I attended the course under NSC’s Malaysian Athlete Career And Education (MACE) programme,” said Leong, or Angela, to her friends.
Leong also coaches the national team after Malaysia Swimming asked her to help out while waiting for a new coach to be appointed.
“Those who completed the course were informed that we would receive a grant from the National Entrepreneurship Institute.
“That was a big surprise for everyone. The grant helped me move to a bigger premises. Previously, Heroes Cafe was in a converted container.
“I would recommend other athletes to take advantage of MACE as it helps prepare them for life after sports.”
Leong said she gained insights on how to run a business and how to improve sales and marketing.
Initiated in 2018, MACE consists of three main pillars – education, career and welfare – and provides opportunities and programmes for athletes beyond their athletic career.
Even those recently cut from the Podium Programme are eligible to enjoy the benefits of MACE for the next two years.
Putting into practice what she learnt from the entrepreneurship course, Leong plans to start a diving academy.
“I spent 27 years of my life training day and night. Diving is my life.
“I have not abandoned my teammates as I am part of the coaching setup,” said Leong, who has a degree in mass communications from Universiti Putra Malaysia.
“As for the academy, I am still waiting for approval from the Youth and Sports Ministry for the facilities.”
Asked if she would consider coaching the national team on a full-time basis, she said: “If given the chance, I would love to, but I understand NSC does not have the budget this year. But it is something I would consider.”
Meanwhile, Leong is looking forward to Chinese New Year as she has not celebrated it with her family for over three years.
“That is part of an athlete’s life. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice spending time with the family when we are in training, or in the case of the last two years, in quarantine.
“Two years ago, we were in China but trapped in a bubble and could not go anywhere. It was the same last year as we were preparing for the Olympics.
“I am glad I will be able to go back to Ipoh this year. My wish is for those who are travelling and celebrating to be safe, follow the standard operating procedures and be wary of the coronavirus.”