When everybody thought he would spend his lifetime in his Karate get-up, Lim Chee Wei finds comfort in studying phonetics in the cocoon of his bedroom.

The 27-year-old, who made Malaysia proud after bagging numerous Karate awards dreams to become a language teacher upon finishing his studies.

Albeit packed schedule, Lim Chee Wei dedicates his free time to study language and literature. Photo courtesy Lim Chee Wei

It is not everyday we read about the academic pursuits of national athletes. Their packed schedule would normally cause them to take a back-seat with their studies.

However, the gold-medallist national Karate-do champion proved that making Malaysia proud while achieving academic excellence is not impossible.

The Penang-born athlete is currently pursuing Masters in Linguistics and English Language Study at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Pulau Pinang. He recently graduated from the same university for his Bachelor Degree program in the same course.

Balancing sports and studies

He may make competing for national championships while studying look easy, but in truth is it has never been an easy journey for him.

“It was very challenging. It was not easy managing high performance sports and studies at the same time. That’s why I took less subjects every semester to maintain my pointer.

“It took me six years to graduate for my degree program, but I persevered and eventually I managed to complete my studies,” he told Higher Education Today during an interview recently.

Rigorous daily training that takes at least two to three hours per session did not deter him from his books and classes.

“After training and competitions, I will revert to becoming a bookworm so as not to fall back on my lessons,” he laughed.

Juggling between high performance sports and studies is never easy, but Lim Chee Wei gives his utmost best to balance both.

When asked why he wants to be an English lecturer, he said it all started when he took English Literature in Form 6.

“That was when I found my calling and personally I have always had a passion for the English language.

“Not only that, I had an amazing teacher who inspired me to venture into language and become an educator myself,” he added.

Lim Chee Wei won the gold medal in the individual kata event at the 2014 Asian Games.

Career in Karate-do

The fateful and colourful journey of his career in Karate-do all started when he watched a karate demonstration at his primary school when he was 10 years old. From that moment on he joined karate and never looked back.

Until today, it has been 17 long years of training under the same coaches, Lim Lee Lee and Ku Jin Keat, who are no longer just his coaches, but also part of the family.

“My coaches and my parents are my biggest supporters in everything that I do,” he said.

The support and training he received from his coaches helped him win numerous Karate-do championships with the most recent one being a gold medal in the last SEA Games 2017.

Lim Chee Wei with his coaches and fellow Karate mates. Photo courtesy Lim Chee Wei

It is almost impossible for Lim Chee Wei to get the best of both worlds if not because of endless supports from his coaches, who he regards as his family.

Winning gold medals is not his only merit but he also wins hearts with his kindness and helpfulness.

“I try my best to contribute towards the sports when I have the time. I would try to teach and guide my juniors for competitions and also for their karate belt grading,” he added.

Challenges in his studies

In his first year during the undergraduate program in USM, he said that he had to apply a three weeks’ leave from lectures as well as the Dean of his faculty due to a competition.

Lim Chee Wei plans to continue his study in PhD level to realise his dream of becoming an English lecturer.

“I was scolded initially by the Dean because he said that sportsmen like me would always take leave from lectures which will then affect our academic performance.

“But I convinced my Dean that I can balance both my studies and Karate-do so in the end he relented and gave me the leave allowance.

“And I also made sure I proved to him that my studies are not affected at all by my participation in professional sports. Ever since then, there was no question for me to ask for exceptions from lectures,” he explained.

Upon finishing his Masters, he plans to further his studies in PhD program to fulfil his dream of becoming an English lecturer one day.