MUSCLE memory is vital in sports, and when you are Singapore’s oldest and only Sikh Olympian, you have a lot of memories. And when you are a passionate sportsman like Mr Ajit Singh Gill – who turned 89 in March this year – you keep making memories either on the pitch, track or green.
Even on the cusp of 90, there is no stopping Mr Singh. The avid golfer is at the course three times a week; in September last year, he even participated in the 33rd ASEAN Senior Open held in Brunei and has taken up a new sport, race walking.
While many young Singaporeans may not know who he is, the sporting fraternity remembers him better as the strapping 28-year-old who represented Singapore in hockey at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. He also competed in many hockey matches against Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Belgium, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia.
Mr Singh with his iconic hockey stick.
His passion for sport took root when he was a young boy playing on a little field near his childhood home in Selangor, Malaysia.
“Back in those days, before World War II, there were no televisions and distractions. We didn’t have money to go to cinemas… so, we started playing games. My father encouraged us by buying some sporting equipment with whatever little money he had. Even when we didn’t have hockey balls, we would play with tennis balls.
“We learnt all sorts of sport! We formed our own teams and competed with each other. We made our own rules,” Mr Singh said with a chuckle.
Walking the talk
As someone who constantly talks about the importance of active living, he walks the talk... quite literally.
Last year, Mr Singh picked up race walking, a sport which requires one foot to be in contact with the ground at all times. And of course he joined his first race walking competition and won the gold medal in his age group.
Mr Singh added: “I’ve always believed that you should keep moving... don’t sit too long. My family and friends encouraged me to try race walking. I finally joined the Asian Masters Athletics Championships 2016 when it was hosted in Singapore. I race walked five kilometres in 50 minutes and won the gold medal.
“It is hard to get it right... but I like it so much, I’m going to compete again,” Mr Singh enthused.
This race walking gold medal is now part of his extensive collection of sporting trophies. Well-deserved!
Keeping active through sport
For Mr Singh, being fit and active is important especially if you want to enjoy sport.
“Even in golf, having a good fitness level makes the sport fun!” he added.
To get a full body work-out on the green, Mr Singh chooses to pull his golf bag along the slopes of the golf course instead of simply hopping on a buggy.
No buggy, no problem: Mr Singh chooses to pull his golf bag along the hilly golf course for the added exercise.
He has also embraced a bit of technology to help him watch his health. On his left arm is a Fitbit which shows him his heart rate, the number of steps he has walked and amount of calories burnt.
“My second daughter, who is a doctor, advised me not to let my heart rate go beyond 110 beats a minute. So, my son bought me a Fitbit.
“I even use this as a stopwatch to time my laps when race walking,” said Mr Singh.
Keeping a watch on his health... Mr Singh uses his Fitbit to keep track of his heart rate and calories burnt.
When asked what his friends thought about his love for sport, Mr Singh laughed, his brown eyes twinkling with pride: “Many people have told me, ‘When I’m your age, I just hope that I’m still able to walk!’”
This ageless sportsman is truly a role model of successful ageing!
Read our previous #SportingStar story on Mr Ang Peng Siong: A Quiet Love
Article published on: 21/6/2017