INJURIES are inevitable. You won’t be able to find a national athlete in any sport who has never had a serious injury of some sort. One person who has suffered many different injuries is Karen Yap, a national discus thrower and SEA Games medallist. Having experienced such pain and hardship due to injuries, she decided to become a physiotherapist.
After her international competition career was over, she teamed up with a business partner to form a strength training and physiotherapy centre. There are many physiotherapy centres around but Dynamique Sports Rehab Centre is one owned by an ex-national athlete who has had to undergo a lot of rehab herself.
HOW DID YOU END UP BECOMING A DISCUS THROWER?
I started my sports career when I was 11. There was no discus event for Under-12s in MSSM (Majlis Sukan Sekolah Malaysia) so I took part in the shot put event and won a gold medal for it. It was my first taste of sports success.
A year later, I broke the MSSM shot put record for the Under-12 age group and was selected by the National Sports Council to join the National Junior Team at the Bukit Jalil Sports School. From the age of 13 to 15, I actually concentrated on shot put. Discus was just a secondary sport for me. When I was 15, I won MSSM gold medals — and broke records — for both the shot put and discus events.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ON DISCUS?
I enjoy the uniqueness of this event which relies on so many factors for success. Strength is a factor but its not the only factor. It doesn’t require as much strength as the shot put.
The discus itself is only 1kg for women and 2kg for men, so it really isn’t that heavy. Being a good discus thrower also involves speed, explosiveness, range and smoothness of motion, and so on. Technique is really important.
HOW MANY INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIONS HAVE YOU PARTICIPATED IN?
My first international competition was when I was 13. It was in Perth, Australia. I think to date I’ve competed in more than 50 international competitions.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST RESULTS?
My personal best in the discus throw is 47.79m, which has been the national record from 2006 to 2017. My best achievement, in terms of medals, is silver in the 2015 SEA Games.
HOW MANY SERIOUS INJURIES HAVE YOU HAD IN YOUR CAREER?
I had my first serious injury when I was 15 when I fractured my right wrist. At 18, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament on my right knee. That required surgery to fix.
Three years later, I tore the meniscus on my right knee. Again, that required surgery. A year after that, I suffered a fracture on my vertebrae. I had to stop training for nine months to recover. So my sporting career has been a series of injuries but that’s quite common among top athletes.
WHAT DID YOUR PARENTS THINK ABOUT YOUR INJURIES?
I’ve only told them about my first surgery, for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. I remember my mum saying that there’d be no more sports for me if I suffer another serious injury. After that I didn’t tell them about any other injuries or operations I had.
To this day they still don’t know about the other injuries. Perhaps they will now after reading this article!
HAVE YOU EVER ASKED YOURSELF WHETHER THE MEDALS YOU’VE WON WERE WORTH THE PAIN AND INJURIES YOU’VE HAD TO SUFFER?
It has definitely been worth it. It is through the pursuit of excellence in sports that I’ve learnt to fight on despite pain and suffering. These lessons are valuable in real life as well. We all face obstacles and challenges in whatever we want to do. The question is whether you’re strong and tough enough to see things through.
My experiences have taught me to be independent, handle stress, deal with disappointments and failure, and persevere to achieve my full potential. I don’t give up easily.
HOW DID DYNAMIQUE SPORTS REHAB CENTRE COME ABOUT?
Towards the end of my competitive career, I worked in a private physiotherapy centre. My role was basically to customise strength training programmes for customers’ pre- and post-surgery rehabilitation.
I noticed that society was getting more and more into exercise and ordinary people, not just athletes, were suffering from sports injuries. There was no proper sports training and recovery centre other than the one operated by the National Sports Council of Malaysia but that facility is available only for national athletes. What about the rest of the people out there with sports injuries? There’s no place for them. I felt there was an opportunity to set up a one-stop centre that could offer physiotherapy treatments, strength training and sports massage.
HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM OTHER PHYSIOTHERAPY CENTRES?
At Dynamique, we don’t just provide physio treatment. We also do strength and conditioning training.
We think this is really important and seriously lacking in Malaysia. Sports massage is also very important for recovery. We offer all three: physiotherapy, strength and conditioning training and sports massage. We’re like a one-stop centre for your sports rehabilitation needs.
ARE YOU NOW RETIRED FROM COMPETITIONS?
I have retired from the national team but I still compete in a few local competitions just for fun. I still train at the National Sports Council of Malaysia once a week so I can spend time with my discus “family”: my coach, who’s like a father to me, and my juniors who are like my younger brothers and sisters.
We have a strong bond and I love spending time with them. When our coach isn’t around, I play the role of coach to them.