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Life after sports for Malaysian athletes

Loh Jack Chang, a decorated wushu exponent and an MBA holder, is unsure what's next for him once he quits sports.

“We’re taught we can push through anything, we can make it wherever we want to go, and we’re always told to not ask for help."

Those were the words of US Olympian Allison Schmitt.

The Michigan-born swimmer was quoted in the article 'The Dark Side of Going for Gold' — which discusses how athletes are prone to emotional crashes after the Olympics.

As the 29th edition of the SEA Games ended in Kuala Lumpur last week, Malaysian athletes are also emotionally tested.

They now ask - what's next?

Most of them are enjoying a break, or what is widely known as a cooling off period. However, many of those who competed in the regional Games said they are unsure what is their next assignment as they await instructions from their respective associations and the National Sports Council.

But those who have expressed their intention to retire face another uncertainty - life after sports.

I met decorated national swimmer Khoo Cai Lin days prior the Games. She was wondering of her next career move, hoping to land a job in marketing.

"I wished I had someone guiding me," the 29-year-old Khoo confessed.

"I've got no working experience and that has been a major setback."

Khoo is not alone.

Wushu star Loh Jack Chang, who expressed his intention to retire after the World Championships in Kazan on Sept 27 - Oct 3, said his first priority is to prepare for his wedding scheduled next year. But he is unsure of what we will do once he ties the knot.

Loh, 30, has a Masters in Business Administration but has zero working experience.

"I admit I'm not sure what's next for me once I leave wushu. I've never given much thought about it during my early days in the sport but now, I must admit I'm a little worried," Loh said.

Perhaps our national athletes should be given the opportunity to go through internship programmes with corporate companies or government agencies to allow them to pick up skills which will come in handy once they stop being athletes. 

But help must come from within - ie the athletes themselves. 

Our stars must realise their celebrity like status will eventually come to an end. 

Some will be able to cope with it while others will find it difficult adjusting to life as a has-been, regardless of his or her past stature.

And preparing to lead a normal life is something they ought to do.

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