73-year-old and medal contender
Ong set to compete in three more events at this year's National Games
"When there is a will, there is a way".
This is the mantra that 73-year-old Ong Beng Gee has adopted all his life and it is why he will be competing in this year's Singapore National Games, from Saturday to Aug 7.
The Games are part of GetActive! Singapore, a week-long sporting festival leading up to the Republic's 51st birthday. A total of 488 events across 21 sports will take place at 15 locations islandwide.
Ong, who works as a senior consultant and writer at Pet's Station, will be taking part in swimming - the men's 50m breaststroke and 100m breaststroke - and athletics - the men's Masters 100m, 3,000m race walk and long jump.
Ong had taken part in the 2014 Games, where he participated only in the 50m (sixth) and 100m (silver) breaststroke events in the men's 45 and over category.
When he started, he did not expect to swim competitively. He took up the sport only to stay healthy and keep himself occupied during his free time.
"I took up swimming when I hurt my left heel when doing the long jump some time back," he told The New Paper yesterday.
"I told myself that I had to keep fit even if I couldn't run, so I took up swimming.
"Then, I got a call from the Canberra Community Club who said they needed a senior citizen to complete their team for the 2013 Singapore Community Games.
"Initially, I was very reluctant because I was not a very good swimmer but I joined anyway and was coached by a 16-year-old boy how to swim well in the breaststroke.
"That was a blessing because it is very rare for a younger person to coach someone as old as me.
"I was praying just not to finish last in the 50m breaststroke and shockingly, I finished sixth.
"I also managed to finish second in the 100m breaststroke and that spurred me on to take part in the National Games, where I won silver in the 100m breaststroke, which I did not expect at all."
After that performance, Ong pushed himself further for this year's Games and signed up for three more Masters events in track and field.
"I told myself this time around, I'm not going to miss out on the running and jumping events," he said.
"These are things that I have enjoyed since young and I want to know where I stand on a competitive front and how fit I really am for my age.
"A competition like this provides measurements which can tell me where I stand and what I can improve on.
"Otherwise, I will be running and jumping aimlessly."
One can be forgiven for wondering how Ong is able to take part in such activities considering his age and, more importantly, what he stands to gain from it.
"If we keep ourselves busy at all times, we will keep our minds on the right track and we can delay ourselves from falling into depression or dementia. We give less trouble to our loved ones as well," he said.
"To keep fit and stay active at an old age, you have to be doing it consistently without stopping and you have to set your mind to it.
"You may not have the time but just a bit is enough.
"For myself, I spend at least an hour every day after work going for walks or jogging at the park near my house, lifting dumbbells and going for swims.
"Ultimately, I just want to prove to everyone that if I can do it, so can you."