Erika the queen of breaststroke
Name: Erika Kong Chia Chia
Date of Birth: August 18 1995
Place of Birth: Kuching
KUCHING: She was one of the best female swimmers that Sarawak had ever produced, and at the international level, she is unsurpassed in her achievements.
While other swimming stars such as Tania Bugo had Malaysia Games (Sukma) fame, Erika Kong had gone as far as the Commonwealth Games although the Olympics was a bridge too far.
Sarawak had produced a few female Southeast (SEA) Games swimmers like Hii Siew Siew and Jong Su Ting (Laos, 1989) and more recently Angela Chieng (Singapore, 2015) but Erika would become the only one to have gone further than the SEA Games.
She made waves when she was hardly in her teens, competing in numerous age group events such as the Asean schools meet, the Age Group national meet and the Sukma Games.
In her prime, she was the best breaststroke specialist in the country alongside national teammate Khoo Cai Lin.
In 2009, she won the MSSM Milo Sport Girl Award, an achievement of sorts as she beat fellow Sarawakian and top international diver Pandelela Rinong Pamg to the top prize.
She won a bronze at the SEA Games in Laos and also participated in the University Games besides the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.
Erika owed her success to her parents, particularly her father Anthony, who went all out to help forge her swimming career.
At the tender age of four, Erika was encouraged by her mother to learn swimming and her fondness for swimming encouraged her father to help her achieve her goal.
From young, Erika admitted that her ambition was to represent the state and nation and even becoming a world champion one day.
“To me, to excel in swimming requires only 25 per cent talent…the rest is you must have the passion for it and that includes discipline, determination and hard work.
“You must be willing to do it all year round and make sacrifice. For young swimmers, my advice is when you started seriously in swimming, you must not stop until your dream is achieved.”
Erika put in 10 sessions per week and the fact that she started very young helped her in her development.
At the Perak Sukma in 2014, Erika swept the board winning three gold in the 100m breast, 200m breast and a relay event and it was the Sarawak Sukma in 2016 that holds a significance for her.
Sarawak had a fierce rivalry with Selangor for the overall Sukma title and they competing at home. Erika and Angela were expected to deliver the gold in the swimming events with the absence of top male swimmers Welson Sim and Vernon Lee.
Welson had opted to concentrate on preparing for the Rio Olympics while Vernon suffered a shoulder injury.
Erika won her three events, which would be her last Sukma as she was already 21.
After the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010, she decided to concentrate on her studies.
For Erika, reaching the Commonwealth Games was the apex in her swimming career and for a Sarawak swimmer to have reached that level is a huge achievement.