Confessions of a former athlete: I struggled, cried for days worrying about life after sports
|Former national table tennis star Chiu Soo Jiin shares how she was emotionally drained after leaving the scene. — Facebook|
Following my earlier posting 'Life after sports for Malaysian athletes', I've received numerous phone calls and messages by former athletes.
The national heroes said the masses are unaware of the predicament they face once they leave the sporting arena and try to lead a normal life.
One of them who reached out was former international table tennis player Chiu Soo Jiin, 32.
In a rather moving message which she agreed to make public, here is what she said:
"I read your article. Let me share this with you.
Table tennis was my life - since I studied at Bukit Jalil Sports School when I was 15 until I retired when I was 28.
We were given an allowance of RM1,500 only and a sports scholarship.
Our sporting life is shot. One must have a degree to get a job easily.
But not many athletes are degree holders. All they think about is competing in the Olympics.
When they get injured or realise their juniors are better than them, they then start worrying about their lives.
All this while they think sports is part of their life. They never think far. Most have never worked before. So they start from zero.
Take me as an example. I got my degree at the age of 26. It was the same time I was preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
We won the bronze medal (in the women's team event comprising Chiu, Beh Lee Wei, Fan Xiao Jun and Ng Sock Khim) - the first for Malaysian table tennis.
But what next?
There weren't any targets. Nothing to look forward to.
Before the Games I appealed to the Table Tennis Association of Malaysia (TTAM) to help me find a job. No one was willing to help.
At the age of 28, I knew my sporting career will end. I tried hard to get jobs. But the sad part is that I don't even know what job should I apply for!
Luckily my uncle based in Sabah knew the CEO or a big construction corporation. The company wanted an athlete to play for its sport carnival held once every two years. I didn't even think what the job was ... didn't even know what the position was. I just took it.
I struggled and cried for many days. You know why I cried? Because I was worried about my new life. Worried no one would know me after giving up table tennis. I was worried about many things. I panicked.
After I got an offer letter from the company, I informed TTAM of my decision to retire from table tennis.
Officials from TTAM said they needed a week to discuss about my decision. And after discussing, they said they wanted me to play until the next Commonwealth Games (2014) and were willing to pay me RM2,500. They promised me a job after the Games.
I told them not to wait for me as I wanted to start a new life.
But work life was not easy. I was bullied at work. I was bullied for not knowing anything. I was bullied because my colleagues knew I got the job through the CEO.
The tension I went through ... no one will ever know.
But there was one thing my ex-colleague told me. She said she envied me. I asked her why to which she replied: "At least you represented Malaysia, traveled to many countries and fulfilled your dream. You have achieved what you wanted to do in life. As for the rest of us, we study to get a degree, get a job, get married, have children ... it's a typical cycle."
I'm now with a Concrete Engineering Products Bhd (as a sales executive). The bosses here are good. Also, I must thank Help University (president) Datuk Dr Paul Chan for giving me a full scholarship to study business marketing. He told me: "Chiu, you just take your time regardless how long it takes as long as you graduate (with a degree)." And he has also offered me to do an MBA there!
I hope people will now understand what we athletes go through. It's not easy and I wish we were given some form of guidance before we left the scene."