Heroes from Southeast Asian sports

Southeast Asian Games 2017 was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Despite Southeast Asia’s diversity and the tensions that persist among countries, the sport has been able to transcend some geopolitical boundaries and connect communities that have similar histories — and cultivate an appetite and appreciation for their native sport as well as identity. Ask a Southeast Asian about sport, and he or she will mention how sports form the mainstay of entertainment in this region.

In this series of Heroes of Southeast Asian sports, we try to celebrate the success of the many stars who have raised the bar in sports from the region of southeast Asia.

Manny Pacquiao(Sport: Boxing)

Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao Sr., CLH (born December 17, 1978) is a Filipino politician and former professional boxer. Nicknamed “PacMan”, he is regarded as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. He has been serving as a senator of the Philippines since 2016.

Image: AirAsia Zest plane with Pacquiao-themed livery(Credits: Wikipedia)

Pacquiao is the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing and has won twelve major world titles. He was the first boxer to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes, the first boxer to win major world titles in four of the eight “glamour divisions” (flyweight, featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight), and is the only boxer to hold world championships across four decades (the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s). In July 2019, Pacquiao became the oldest welterweight world champion in history at the age of 40, and the first boxer in history to become a recognized four-time welterweight champion after defeating Keith Thurman to win the WBA (Super) welterweight title. As of 2015, Pacquiao’s fights had generated $1.2 billion in revenue from his 25 pay-per-view bouts. According to Forbes, he was the second-highest-paid athlete in the world in 2015.

Manny Pacquiao has an amateur record of 60–4 and a record of 62–8–2 as a professional, with 39 wins by knockout. Boxing historian Bert Sugar ranked Pacquiao as the greatest southpaw fighter of all time. In 2020, Pacquiao topped Ranker’s list of best boxers of the 21st century.

Image: A stamp sheet issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation in April 2015(Credits: Wikipedia)

Pacquiao made history by being the first boxer ever to win world titles in eight weight divisions, having won twelve major world titles, as well as being the first boxer to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes. Pacquiao is also the first boxer in history to win major world titles in four of the original eight weight classes of boxing, also known as the “glamour divisions” (flyweight, featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight), and the first boxer ever to become a four-decade world champion, winning world championships across four decades (the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s).

Currently, he is pursuing a career in politics.

Michael Christian Martinez(Sport: Figure skating)

Michael Christian Martinez (born November 4, 1996) is a Filipino Olympic figure skater. He is the 2015 Asian Figure Skating Trophy champion, a two-time Triglav Trophy champion, and has won one ISU Challenger Series medal, silver at the 2014 Warsaw Cup. Martinez is the first skater from Southeast Asia and from a tropical country to qualify for the Olympics, was the only athlete to represent the Philippines at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and was one of only two to represent the Philippines at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Lalu Muhammad Zohri

Lalu Muhammad Zohri (born 1 July 2000) is an Indonesian track and field sprinter. He is the first Indonesian male to win any medal at the IAAF World U20 Championships by winning a gold medal in the 100m. He is the current holder of the Indonesian 100m and 200m national records, and is labeled the “fastest man in Southeast Asia”.

Zohri competed for Indonesia at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships in the 100 m. In the first round, he placed first with a time of 10.30 seconds. In semifinal 1, he placed second with a slightly better time at 10.24, behind World Youth 100m Record Holder and gold medal favorite Anthony Schwartz.

Following the Asian Games, Zohri participated in the inaugural event of the Malaysia Open Grand Prix, timing 10.20 seconds in the 100m race and winning gold. In the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships, Zohri recorded 10.13 seconds in 100m, placing second behind Japanese Yoshihide Kiryū. During the competition’s semifinals, Zohri recorded 10.15 seconds, which was a new national record until the finals less than 150 minutes later. On 19 May 2019, Zohri further improved his record to 10.03 seconds as he won a bronze medal in the 2019 Seiko Golden Grand Prix in Osaka, breaking Southeast Asian records and securing a spot in the qualifications for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Liliyana Natsir

Liliyana Natsir (born 9 September 1985) is an Indonesian former badminton player who specialized in doubles. With one gold and silver from the Olympic Games, and four gold medals at the BWF World Championships.

Image: Liliyana Natsir with Tontowi Ahmad(Credits: Bola.net)

Natsir was the second Indonesian woman Olympic gold medalist, after Susi Susanti in 1992, and is later succeeded by Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu in 2021. Among her achievements is her three back-to-back titles from the 2012–2014 All England Badminton Championships; and in 2016, she and Tontowi Ahmad became the first Indonesian mixed doubles pair to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games after beating Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia. As of 2019, she holds the highest number of BWF World Championship titles for mixed doubles.

In 2006, Natsir and Widianto won the Asian Championships in mixed doubles and four World Grand Prix titles. They won the BWF World Championships in both 2005 and 2007 and came runner-up in 2009. While Natsir had previously focused on mixed doubles with partner Nova Widianto, in 2007 she began playing women’s doubles with Vita Marissa. In the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Thailand, Natsir and Marissa won the gold medal in women’s doubles, defeating their Indonesian teammates Jo Novita and Greysia Polii in straight sets. They also helped the Indonesian women’s team win the team gold medal at the games.

Cheong Jun Hoong

Cheong Jun Hoong(born 16 April 1990) is a Malaysian diver. She won a silver medal in the synchronized 10m platform event with Pandelela Rinong at the 2016 Summer Olympics. At the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, she became Malaysia’s first diving world champion after winning the 10m platform event.

Cheong won a bronze medal in 1m springboards at the 2010 Asian Games. She made her Olympic debut at the 2012 London Olympics where she finished 20th in 3m springboard and eighth in 3m synchronized springboard with Pandelela Rinong.

Image: SEA Games KL2017: Diving World Champion — Cheong Jun Hoong(Credits: visionkl.com)

Cheong represented Malaysia at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where she competed in the 1 m, 3 m, and 10 m events. She placed 8th in the 1 m events, 12th in the 3 m events, 5th in the 3 m synchronized event, 6th in the 10 m event, and 4th in the 10 m synchro event with partner Leong Mun Yee, narrowly losing the bronze medal to fellow athletes Pandelela Rinong and Nur Dhabitah Sabri. At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, she won a silver medal in a 3m synchro springboard with Ng Yan Yee. She also won a bronze medal in the individual 3m event.

In August 2016, she participated at the Rio Summer Olympics in the 3m platform, 10m synchronized platform with Pandelela Rinong, and 3m synchronized springboard with Nur Dhabitah Sabri. She won her first Olympic medal, a silver in the 10m synchronized platform with a final score of 344.34. However, she did not qualify for the final of the 3m event. She placed 5th in the 3m synchro event. Due to her persisting back pain, in October 2016 she withdrew from the 2016 FINA Diving Grand Prix in Kuching, Sarawak.

In June 2017, Cheong returned from a back injury to win the bronze medal in the 1m springboard event at the 7th Asian Diving Cup in Macau after withdrawing from the Kazan and Windsor legs of the 2017 FINA Diving World Series earlier. Cheong became Malaysia’s first diving World Champion, when she took home the gold medal in the 10m platform event in the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, pipping her closest rival by just 1.5 points. 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. She also won a bronze in the 10m synchronized 10 platform event with Pandelela Rinong with a total score of 328.74.

Cheong was chosen as one of the flag-bearers for Malaysia at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games alongside two reigning world champions cyclists Azizulhasni Awang and silat exponent Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari.

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