Singapore's Mok Ying Ren triumphed at the 2013 Southeast Asia Games in Myanmar, winning a marathon gold against the odds. He's now embarking on his journey towards the Rio Olympics 2016. www.mokyingren.com
The 25-year old triathlete achieved some of his earlier successes, including a triathlon gold at the SEA Games in Thailand in 2007, while still a full-time medical student. But to say the Singapore athlete's present success came as something of a surprise is an understatement.
Even as reporters clustered by the finishing line at the Wunna Theidiki stadium, in Myanmar's new capital city, Naypyidaw, word had come from officials on the marathon route that Mok was struggling in fourth place, and still with six kilometres to go.
The national mark of two hours, 24-minutes and 22-seconds, previously set by Rameshon Murugiah at the 1995 SEA Games, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, passed by. Mok's own personal best achievement of two hours, 26-minutes and 33-seconds was the next milestone to come and go as the crowd waited for the front-runners to enter the arena. But, with a flurry of activity, with cameras flashing en-masse and spectators craning to get a better view, one of the athletes was finally seen to make his way onto the track for the race's grand finale. All of a sudden a cry began ringing out: “It's Mok! It's Mok!”
Dressed in his customary bright red colours, his fist punching the air with jubilation, the figure in question was the slight 1.7-metre frame of the Singaporean athletic star. Mok proudly made his way towards the finishing-line, without any sign of other runners creeping up behind to overtake him during those fraught final moments.
Mok's time of two hours, 28-minutes and 35-seconds may not be a world record, but it does put him in Singapore's history books. He is the first male athlete from the tiny Asian city state to strike gold at the SEA Games. His achievement is all the more remarkable because the last Singaporean to earn a medal was female track star Kandasam Jayamani, who finished first in 1983, five years before Mok was even born.
Mok's brave performance what a classic example of triumph over adversity. He himself claimed that the achievement was one of his “hardest marathons ever”. Combating an extreme cough the night before with doses of syrup, he cannot have felt at his prime making his way to the starting block. Amongst the other hurdles he had to face prior to the race even starting was the fact he booked out of a National Service medical officer training course 24 hours earlier. After boarding a plane to Myanmar, he faced a grilling six-hour drive just to arrive in time to take his place at the event.