- Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, early biographical information?
I was born on April 4, 1970 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My full name is Wong Ngai Hong. My name means "artistic hero" in Chinese.
- What is the correct pronunciation of "Ngai"? And did you turn out artistic?
My first name is pronounced as "nai." Beside sculpting my body to perfection, I am not an artistic person. My parents chose this name because my dad appreciates art a lot and wanted me to be an artist-obviously a very famous artist, indeed. Well, I am not an artist per se, but I guess sculpturing my physique is a form of art and I want to be a hero for Asians by being one of the best IFBB pro bodybuilders).
- What was it like growing up in Malaysia?
I grew up in a small town on the outskirts - about 20 miles - from Kuala Lumpur. It was a good neighborhood, a small town where everyone knew everyone. I had many friends when I was a kid. I was very athletic and played all kinds of games, like soccer - we played on the road, or in the street, without shoes -- but our favorite thing to do was arm wrestling. We arm wrestled all the time to see who was the strongest in the neighborhood. I was a strong kid and always turned out to be the winner!
- What kind of family did you come from? Was your family well off? Working class?
I came from an upper middle class family. I come from a big family of 9. I am the youngest of 5 brothers and a sister. My dad is a contractor and my mom is a housewife.
- In what ways does society in Malaysia differ from that in the west? Is Malaysia as open a society as in the U.S., where people don't hesitate to criticize their politicians, where mores around sex (e.g., the way people dress, the constant sexuality on TV and videos, etc.) are rather liberal, where the individual is often the focus above the family?
Malaysia is not as open society as in USA. People here do not generally criticize their politicians mainly because they are scared to do so. There are cases where people were jailed for criticizing their politicians too harshly. Our country practices freedom of speech, but it is limited -- people have to be careful of what they say in a speech.
Malaysians are conservative in the way we dress, especially the older generation. The younger ones, however, are more open minded in thinking and also in the way they dress. The issue of sex is not widely discussed in public or even within the family. We as Asians in general are united in the importance of the family. Family is our main focus, above all other things.
- Describe your early schooling in Malaysia.
In Malaysia we follow the British system of education. It is a free education from elementary through high school. Elementary years are considered grades 1-6, high school years are labeled years 1-5. Education is heavily emphasized by the Malaysian government. We want citizens that are literate and productive for our country and also for the world.
- Were you a good student and athlete as a kid?
I was a good student - always in the top 5 % of my class. I played all kinds of sports like track and field, soccer, ping-pong, tennis, hockey, etc. My favorite subjects are history and geography. I was a well mannered student. Malaysian schools are very strict, discipline wise. For example: all students in government schools are required to wear uniforms. No jewelry like earrings is allowed. Also, all students must be well groomed, for example: male students must have short hair, well groomed finger nails and no dyeing or bleaching of the hair. Discipline is as important as excellence in academics.
- You come from a large family. I only have one brother and we used to fight as little kids. How did all of you guys get along?
I got along very well with my brothers and sister. Since I was the youngest in my family, my brothers always protected me. My sister is the eldest in the family and is 15 years older than me. She used to baby sit me when I was very young. They all are still live in Malaysia. I was closest to one of my brothers who is 3 years my senior. His name is Wong Kwong. We used to do everything together. In school, he was the one who protected me the most!
- Were you raised religious?
I was born a Buddhist. My mom and dad are devoted Buddhists. The Buddhism that I practice is more a philosophical way of life than an orthodox religion. Siddhartha Gautama and Buddhism originated in India about 2,500 years ago. Gautama was a man, not a God. In the teaching of Buddhism, everything in this world is interrelated and we believe in reincarnation.
- Malaysia, like the former American colonies we now call the United States, was once ruled by Britain. Is there much hostility these days towards Malaysia's former colonial rulers?
The British ruled Malaysia from 1824-1957. There was a brief period where Malaysia was controlled by the Japanese -- during World War 2-- from 1941 to 1945. There is no hostility towards the British by Malaysian society. We achieved our independence peacefully from the British on the 31st of August, 1957. One aspect of British colonization that we have benefited from for more than 100 years is the education system. They left us with a good education system which we still embrace to this day.
- What language or languages do Malaysians speak?
Malay is the official language in Malaysia. I speak Malay, Cantonese (a dialect of Chinese), and English.
- I've read in MuscleMag that you have a background in the martial arts.
I studied Tae Kwan Do for 3 years. I stopped at my blue belt. I was influenced by the famous martial arts and movie star, Bruce Lee! Watching his movies when I was a kid influenced me to take up Tae Kwon Do. Malaysia itself has a native martial art called "pencat silat" in the Malay language.
- When you were a kid, did you ever think you'd grow up to live in America?
When I was a child growing up, I heard of all the good things about the USA, that it is the land of opportunities, the richest country in the world --based on its GDP, home to professional sports like the NBA, a thriving entertainment industry as evidenced by Hollywood and Broadway. I told myself that I wanted to go to America and be a professional athlete.
- When did you get your chance to come to America?
The first time I came to America was from 1990 to 1995 for college. I graduated with a Master' degree in Human Nutrition from Colorado State University. After my graduation, I went back to Malaysia from 1995 until 2000. The second time I came to America was in 2000. This time I came here to further my bodybuilding career: namely, to obtain my IFBB pro card.
- What are some of the differences between the American system of higher education and what was available to you in Malaysia?
I like the American system of education a lot. Unlike the British system, the American is more flexible in the sense that one does not have to declare his major until the third year (junior year) in college. The American education system enables students to learn a little about a lot of things - subjects like electives-in their freshman and sophomore years. I think this is a good thing. Those are some of the reasons I came to America for college.
- How did your family feel about your moving to America?
My family has always supported my decision to come to America. We believe that if one wants to be the best in the world, then the USA is the place because it is the most competitive country in the entire world!
- You're on GetBig.com because you're a professional bodybuilder these days. Why and when did you begin lifting weights? When did you decide to become a bodybuilder?
I began lifting weights during my high school years, at the age of 18. I was on the track and field team and was required to lift weights for added strength and power. My body responded very well to weight lifting. My body exploded and gained almost 30 pounds of muscle in just 4 months of training. I was very pleased with the results and decided to become a bodybuilder.
- How is bodybuilding viewed in Malaysia? Is it popular? Are bodybuilders looked down on?
Bodybuilding is not popular in Malaysia. The number one sport in Malaysia is soccer -- even though we suck! The general public does not actually view bodybuilding as a sport in Malaysia. To them, it is more akin to a beauty contest like the Ms. Universe or something -- due to the way we present our physiques on stage. They do not know what it takes -- training wise -- to develop a physique to be on stage and compete. Bodybuilders are considered muscleheads in Malaysia, cocky with no brains!!
- Where do you get your genetics from? Are your parents muscular? You have a tiny waist. Where does that come from?
I get my genetics from my parents. They are pretty well built even in their late 60's. My good genetics with a tiny waist comes mostly from my dad. He has a small bone structure and tiny joints. In my family, all of my 5 brothers have small waists and none of my family members are overweight except me! But that's mostly due to muscles!
- What is the drug scene like in Malaysia? Are steroids considered the same there as in America, namely a Class III drug like cocaine and heroin?
Steroids are considered a "controlled substance" in Malaysia. That means one can get fined but no jail time if found guilty of possessing steroids. They are not considered the same as hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. In Malaysia, you can get death penalty if found guilty of possessing above a certain amount of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. We have some of the strictest drug laws in the world! The Malaysian government has been very cautious and strict on "drug use" in sports. We need a prescription to get steroids in Malaysia. Like elsewhere, bodybuilders are always linked with steroids
- What was your first contest and how did you do?
My first contest was in 1995 -- 6 months after my graduation from Colorado State University. It was a state level contest where I won the middleweight and overall titles at 168 lbs. After winning almost all the IFBB contests in Asia and in 2000, I thought that I had what it takes to become a professional bodybuilder. This prompted me to come to America to seek my IFBB pro card. After winning almost all the shows in Asia, I wanted to see where I stood with the rest of the world in bodybuilding.
- How did competing in America differ from competing in Asia?
In bodybuilding, the American standard is a lot higher than in Asia. Bodybuilders here are much bigger and more ripped and that makes it very competitive. I did pretty good in American bodybuilding contests. I won the overalls at the NPC Metropolitan and the NPC Eastern USA before I got my pro card
- When did you turn pro and what was your first pro show?
I turned pro in 2003. My first show was the Night of Champions that year. I was very excited and nervous at the same time, competing as a pro for the first time with some of the well known bodybuilders that I'd seen in the magazines over the years.
- I remember that show. The crowd loved you.
I was one of the crowd favorites. Many of my friends were in the audience that night. They cheered me whenever my name was called out for a comparison. It was a great feeling!
- When you're in America, where do you train and live?
I train at Steel Gym in Manhattan and I live uptown in Washington Heights.
- How far do you think you can go in bodybuilding?
I believe I have what it takes to be one of the best IFBB pros. I was planning to do the European Grand Prix in England, Holland and Russia come November.
- Wong, drug use pervades all sports, but it is especially noticeable in bodybuilding, where the use of GH and insulin has created monstrous physiques, but also monstrous waist lines. You are known for your tight waist, flowing lines and fresh muscularity. I guess this isn't so much a question as a statement: your fans don't want to see you ruin your body and/or health just to place top 6 in the Olympia or the Arnold Classic. Your reaction?
Today's bodybuilders are beyond huge with distended stomachs. That and the use
of synthol has ruined the sport completely. Today mass rules in pro bodybuilding. I miss the classical physiques from back in the 80's. They were not too big and sported tight waists and balanced physiques.
The use of drugs in pro bodybuilding is getting out of control! For the past 10 years or so, the judges have been favoring mass over symmetry, and as a result of that, today's bodybuilders are getting much bigger with blockier waistlines unlike anything we've seen before. They rely heavily on drugs to get as big as possible, sacrificing their symmetry and leading to health problems. This is the downfall of bodybuilding. Many bodybuilders have died or been forced to retire prematurely due to health complications caused by excessive steroid intake over a long period of time. This detracts from the true meaning of bodybuilding, as it is supposed to be a healthy lifestyle.
On top of that, today's pro bodybuilders are way too big for the general public to admire or appreciate. The general public does not want to be like them because they are too intimidating. I do not want to risk my health and ruin my physique by abusing drugs just to place well in pro contests. My goals in bodybuilding are to be one of the best bodybuilders in the world and build a healthy physique that is pleasant to the eye -- symmetrical and proportional with enough mass-- and inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle by working out. That is the true meaning of bodybuilding.
- Who are your "friends" in the world of bodybuilding and outside it?
The IFBB vice president for Asia, Mr.Paul Chua, and the NPC New York Metropolitan Chairman , Mr. Steve Weinberger, are 2 individuals who have helped me a whole lot in my bodybuilding career. Paul is my father in bodybuilding and Steve is a close friend of mine and a true gentleman. Both have guided and given me valuable advice throughout my bodybuilding career. I would have been nowhere in my bodybuilding career without the generous help from these 2 gentlemen.
Mr. Jim Manion -- IFBB pro division chairman-- is another generous friend of
mine. Other friends include IFBB promoter and judge Mr. Winston Roberts, Mr.Paul Dillet and Laura Creavalle. They are funny, generous and fun to hang out with.
Rohmat Juraimi -- former IFBB MR. Asia -- was the one who got me in bodybuilding 15 years ago. He was my coach during my early years in bodybuilding. Victor Munoz is my trainer since I came to America in 2000 and has helped me to bring my physique to the next level. Both individuals are very knowledgeable in bodybuilding and have become mentors for me.
- Outside of bodybuilding, what other goals do you have in life that you would like to accomplish?
I want to be married to a beautiful girl and raise a wonderful family. I want to be a good father and raise my kids to be good people and good citizens of the world. I also want to be an actor. I think I have what it takes to be an Asian Superhero. Only time will tell if I get to realize my dreams in the movie industry
- : If you could go back in time and visit young Wong Hong, a little schoolboy in Malaysia, what advice would you have for yourself based on what life has taught you thus far?
One should go with his heart in choosing a career. I see a lot of people who are not enjoying what they do for a living. They are doing it to pay their rent. I am fortunate enough to do what I love: bodybuilding, and to be able to make a decent living out of it. Money is not everything. I see a lot of filthy rich people but they are still not happy with their lives. One should have good faith in God and oneself. One should be honest and generous with others. What ever we do -- good or bad -- will eventually come back to us.
Also, everything happens for a reason. Persistence, perseverance, talent and some luck is important for one to excel or become the best in one's chosen career/field.
If you wish, you can contact Wong Hong at [email protected], and visit his web site, www.wonghong.net. Contact Tony at [email protected]