Born to sprint

On your mark, get set, go! At 63, Linda runs with incredible speed and stamina.

TONED, tanned and tattooed. Can we also add fast, fabulous and fierce? 

This is Linda Oh, the 63-year-old who is challenging stereotypes on ageing. How many 63-year-olds you know have a belly piercing?

Linda is a competitive sprinter with more than 700 trophies and medals under her belt. 

Linda discovered her talent for sprinting when she was a child. She was extremely quick on her feet and could run faster than most of her peers. 

“I was born to be a sprinter. I believe it’s because I have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres. These are muscles that can contract very quickly, allowing for fast bursts of explosive movements,” she said. 

Curious to see how she would fare in competitions, the then 10-year-old Linda participated in her first-ever sprinting competition at Marsiling Primary School’s 1967 sports day. She bagged her first trophy that day — the first of many.

“I remember feeling so nervous before the competition, so I was very happy to win a small trophy!” Linda said. 

Since then, Linda has competed in countless competitions locally and around the world, often emerging victorious. Recently, she added six medals to her impressive collection after clinching four gold and two silver medals at the Singapore Masters Athletics 40th anniversary track and field competition which took place from 4 to 5 May this year. She was also voted the “Best Female Sprinter” at the competition.  

The hundreds of medals adorning her house and newspaper clippings of her wins are testament to her athletic prowess. 
Medals galore

Medals galore… Linda has competed in more than 100 competitions locally and around the world, and adorns the walls of her home with her medals. 

Linda is no medal hound though  — she knows there is more to life than winning.

“I don’t expect myself to be a champion all the time. Even if I lose, I am fine with it. I will find out why I lost and improve from there,” she said. 

It was this positivity that helped her deal with the disappointment of withdrawing from the 1st Indoor World Masters Athletics Championships in 2004 held in Sindelfingen, Germany. A hamstring injury forced her to pull out of this eagerly anticipated race a week before she took to the track.

“When I injured my hamstring muscles, it was so painful that I couldn’t talk or open my eyes. Even though I could not compete in the 2004 championships in Germany, I still attended it to ‘kiss’ the track!” she said with a laugh. 

Just like her sprinting journey, Linda’s life has had its fair share of ups and downs.

In 1992, she suffered from postnatal depression after giving birth to her second son. That, coupled with a divorce a few years later, took a huge toll on her mental health. 

She frankly said she had thoughts of suicide while suffering from depression for five years, but she pulled through, thanks to the support from her friends. 

Linda has since put her unhappy past behind her and these days, the spry senior busies herself with resistance training at the gym, pole dancing, Pilates, belly dancing, swimming and Muay Thai. She also works as a personal trainer, part-time trainer at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital staff gym and part-time receptionist at a backpacker hostel. All this, on top of her training schedule for her sprint competitions. 

Three months before a sprinting competition, you will find her training at Bedok Stadium and Toa Payoh Stadium. She also recently learnt how to play the piano just by watching YouTube tutorials and practises for two hours every day.
Power of music
The power of music… Linda enjoys playing the piano and believes that it will help reduce her risk of dementia. 

She wants more seniors like her to exercise, especially women. And it doesn’t matter if they are not good at it at first. 

“Exercise gives you more energy, makes you happier and healthier and keeps your mind active. You will definitely build up your fitness over time. I also encourage women to try out belly dancing or exercise with the hula hoop as these will strengthen the hip muscles and reduce the risk of hip fractures during falls,” Linda said.
Strong grip
Strong grip… Linda had this pole specially flown in from Australia in 2011.

She added: “Keep a healthy diet as well. Try not to consume so much gravy and sauces, and cut down on sugar too. Eat a lighter meal for dinner as we are usually more sedentary in the evening.”

The sprint queen plans to keep moving as long as she can and slowing down is not an option. 

She said: “The older I am, the faster I run. My life is very interesting and I don’t intend to slow down any time soon!”

Article published on: 7/06/2019