National diver Cheong Jun Hoong has officially announced her retirement after representing Malaysia for over two decades since 1999
In a statement on her social media pages yesterday, 4 January, Cheong said she accepts her recent failure with open arms.
"Since my second knee surgery in 2018, I had focused solely on my recovery and mustered the courage to get back on the diving platform with a view to do my very best at the Olympics (last year) despite the numerous obstacles," she wrote.
"But I must admit that it was most regretful that I had not been able to perform ideally in the competition despite my best efforts."
While she expressed that she had wanted to continue representing Malaysia, she has accepted the National Sports Council's (NSC) decision to not renew her contract.
"I would, however, like to express my gratitude to NSC, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Olympic Council of Malaysia for their support throughout the years, as without them I would not be where I am today."
She also thanked the National Sports Institute and all the doctors, rehabilitation physiotherapists, counsellors, and all other staff for their support and encouragement through every step of her career.
1. Cheong hails from Batu Gajah, Perak
She was born on 16 April 1990 and turns 32 this year.
According to her FINA athlete profile, she got into diving after her father signed her up for swimming lessons at the young age of four. Scouted by then Perak state coach, Zhou Xiyang, she was invited to try diving at the age of nine.
At 13 years old, she secured a place at Bukit Jalil Sports School, where she started to train and compete professionally.
Visually petite at 153cm tall, Cheong specialises in 1m, 3m, and 10m individual and synchronised diving events.
2. She made history by becoming the first Malaysian to win a world championship title in diving
Cheong was declared a world champion at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in 2017 by bringing back gold at the Women's 10m Individual Platform event.
Four of the seven judges gave a perfect 10 on her best dive in the competition, and she finished with an overall score of 397.5.
Her victory broke China's dominance in diving and created a historic feat.
"My god, I'm a world champion! I hoped for a medal, but I didn't think I could beat the Chinese divers," she said at the time.
3. She has a long history of injuries and almost gave up the sport at 19 years old
According to FINA, she sustained a back injury at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, which forced her to miss the Asian Games that year in Qatar.
She considered leaving in 2009 but was encouraged by her coach to persevere.
In 2015, she hurt both her heels after getting too close to the springboard while performing a dive, and in 2017, she was troubled again by back problems at the World Championships in Budapest.
She took a break from competition after undergoing a knee operation in June 2018.
In 2019, she sustained an injury to her right wrist, which was caused by using a crutch during her recovery from an injury to her left knee.
4. Despite so, she always trained hard and made a comeback
Cheong overcame her injuries, and continued training after periods of recovery and brought back many more medals for Malaysia.She also completed a bachelor's degree in Communications from Universiti Putra Malaysia during the off time.
"I had thought of retiring, but that is normal when you feel frustrated or face problems as we are humans after all," she said at the 2020 Malaysia International Online Diving competition.
"I still want to compete, and that is the spirit I have as an athlete. However, in order to compete, I have to make sure that I am in the best of shape for assignments."
5. Cheong has brought home a total of 34 FINA and Olympic world medals over her career
Her athlete profile states that she has won seven golds, 14 silvers, and 13 bronze medals over 22 years of competing.
Cheong had already sealed her name among Malaysian sporting greats by bagging a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Pandelela Rinong in the Women's 10m Synchronised Platform event.
Besides the historic gold at the 2017 FINA World Championships, she also notably won a bronze medal in the Women's 10m Synchronised Platform event at the same competition, again with Pandelela.
She is a six-time gold medallist in the SEA Games, and has bagged many more medals at various editions of the Commonwealth Games, FINA Diving World Series, FINA Diving Grand Prix, FINA World Cup, Asian Diving Cup, and the Asian Games.
Cheong was also given the honour of bearing Malaysia's flag at the opening ceremony of the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, and was also named Sportswoman of the Year by the NSC in the same year.
Cheong also has the cutest friendship with British top diver Tom Daley, who knitted her a viral cardigan last year: