Choo Ling Er, 28, is one of Singapore’s most inspirational athletes in the sporting scene.
That’s because in 2009, the full-time triathlete had been run over by a car and as a result, she broke both her legs. She sustained serious injuries to her femur, knee and ankle. As a result of her injuries, the doctors had said that she would never walk again, let alone race.Yet Ling persevered and she proved them wrong in the end – she has since not only made a full recovery, but she is now back into the full swing of things in triathlon racing.
Not long after her accident, some of her achievements include winning her age group at the Jeju Ironman, Korea in 2011 and the Aviva 70.3 Ironman Singapore in 2012, and coming in first at the 2XU Mega-Tri Long Distance Triathlon in 2013. She also finished second in her age group at the Putrjaya 70.3 Ironman, Malaysia in 2014 and came in third at the Auckland 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in the same year. As well, she’s also qualified for, and successfully completed the Kona Ironman World Championships, twice – in 2011 and 2015.
Said Ling, “To be really honest, I don’t really think too much of the accident nor am I able to recall much of what happened, today. I simply picture the steps that I can take, no matter how slowly, to move to a better place.”
Has her sights set on becoming the first Singaporean to podium at Kona
Today, Ling is not simply racing triathlons, but she even has her sights firmly set on becoming the first Singaporean to clinch a podium position at the Kona World Championships in Hawaii this year.Taking place in the town of Kailua-Kona in October each year, the Kona World Championships is considered as the “holy grail” of triathlon, similar to what the Boston Marathon is, in the eyes of marathon runners.
Said Ling, “I am very focused on my goal ahead, which is to be the first Singaporean to ever podium in Kona. I never really see myself as an inspirational figure or intentionally playing such a role yet at this point.”
And to prepare herself for this goal, Ling is training with triathlon legend Jurgen Zack. A former triathlete from Germany, Zack finished second in the 1997 Ironman World Championships and has won eight Ironman races during his career, from 1989 to 2001.
Said Ling, “Jurgen basically oversees my training plans and has made a great deal of changes to the way I was preparing previously. I am also working with Amos, a swimming coach who is also a good friend of mine and he has been instrumental in terms of my improvements over the last few months.”
As well, her partner, Alan Soh, has also been her pillar of support when the going gets tough during her training.
Refuses to remain contented with what she has
Ling may be proud of everything that she has achieved in triathlon so far, but she refuses to remain contented with what she currently has.Said Ling, “While I am extremely proud of what I have achieved so far, I simply am not content with what I already have and am extremely hungry for the next step of my sporting career.”
To her, the three values of persistence, commitment and dedication have been instrumental to her growth in the sport of triathlon so far.
Added Ling, “And I hope that my personal best of 10.18 hours for the Ironman New Zealand in 2012 could be a beacon for athletes to believe that as long as you are honest, dedicated and committed to your training, the results will come in for sure.”
Glory can only be achieved with hard work
Despite the glory and the results though, Ling stresses that these can never be achieved without the hard work that she puts into her training. She explained, “While the glory of winning races and breaking records may all seem great from the outside, many do not see the process it took for me to get there.”
She added, “In life you do come across the occasional people who are disappointing and also generates a lot of unnecessary negativity around you and your training. It makes me lose focus. But it was also during one of these times, when I met my great friend and training partner Jackie.”One morning, it had been rather wet and rainy. Ling explained, “There was a drizzle and because of that, nobody else except Jackie turned up at the meeting point to do a 120km bike ride with me on the road. We both rode in tandem, laughing and chatting away in the rain while many would have taken the easy way out, and had a snooze.”
She added, “That was the turning point too, for me to step out of the negativity. What that taught me, was that as a student of the sport, always surround yourself with positive and like-minded people. Beautiful things happen when you step away from the negativity. That, to me, is also my biggest moment of my triathlon journey.”
Triathlon is a very fulfilling sport
But despite all of the hard work and challenges that the sport comes with, Ling feels that triathlon is a very fulfilling sport for her, and the leg that she finds the most rewarding is cycling.She explained, “Cycling brings me to places that I normally would to have travelled to, in a car. You get to meet vibrant people from all walks of life. And last but not least, it is also the only leg where technology can possibly make you a bit faster, with all of the fancy gadgets.”
Take things slowly
And for budding triathletes, Ling advises them to take things slowly and do not rush into doing things. She said, “I have come across athletes who, on their first attempt, try and set a pretty competitive timing to achieve in their race. With the reality in Singapore of holding down a full time job and the need to support a family, the stress and pressure soon catches up with them and they crack.”
She added, “While I am not saying that it is impossible to achieve great results in a short space of time, we should all set our priorities in life straight first and then align these with our expectations and plan how to manage it.”
Never lose sight of why you picked up the sport
But at the same time, Ling stresses that triathletes and other sports people should never lose sight of why they picked up the sport in the first place. She said, “Most athletes in general, start off too quickly in the sport and before you know it, the fatigue builds up and the interest level declines. Sport should always be about the fun as well as the challenges.”She continued, “But the best investment that any athlete could do for themselves is to invest in a good coach whom they are comfortable with. Continuous effort, but strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking your full potential.”
However, the costs may deter some from living up to their full potential though, when it comes to the triathlon. For starters, hiring a coach does not come cheap and this may set you back by several hundred dollars.
Added Ling, “In fact, the sheer costs of everything all adds up – from equipment to gears, and all the way to the cost of the race. Many people’s faces screw up when I tell them that I had to pay for my race fee for the World Championships, even after qualifying via winning a race. It just doesn’t make sense.”