Newly-crowned world diving champion Cheong Jun Hoong and her teammates returned home to a heroes’ welcome from a large group of eager fans.
Besides Jun Hoong’s family members – father Cheong Sun Meng, mother Leow Lai Kun and her sisters – Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as well as officials from the National Sports Council and National Sports Institute were also present.
Fans had gathered as early as two hours before the divers’ scheduled arrival at KLIA, some bearing flowers and other gifts for the athletes.
As soon as they caught sight of the divers, the crowd let out a hearty roar and rushed to shake their hands and take photos with them.
Fans waved the Malaysian flag, beat drums and chanted “Malaysia Boleh” to celebrate their heroes’ return.
A grand stage was set up for the event at the KLIA arrival hall to also welcome para-athletics world champions shot putter Ziyad Zolkepli and long-jumper Latif Romly as well as the national U-23 football team who had qualified for the AFC U-23 championship.
“I want to thank everyone for coming today. Your presence really means so much to me,” Jun Hoong said on stage, visibly moved.
“I thank my coach Yang Zhuliang for the support and guidance in making me a world champion.
“I would not have achieved it had it not been for the support of my teammates, family members and friends,” she added.
Jun Hoong, 27, was also inducted into the Malaysian Book of Records during the hour-long ceremony.
Last Wednesday, Jun Hoong made history when she upset Rio Olympics gold and silver medallists Si Yajie and Ren Qian of China to become Malaysia’s first diving winner at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.