Sunday, July 27, 2008

The walker strikes back!

For so long and now at last, we had a race walking event held last Sunday and perhaps the only one for the year!
Race walking has always been my pet event (perhaps it's because I started learning walking before I learned to run!). Unfortunately there aren't many walking races in Malaysia. Perhaps walking events here have not drawn as many participants as in running. Perhaps, the sport itself is too technical and takes time to train. In addition to this, the country also lacks quality coaches to train and guide us.

Race Walking
Ask any runner who has tried race walking and not continued with it, they will tell you that race walking is difficult. It is because it reflects the fact that the sport takes a much greater degree of sustained focus and concentration on tecnical details than running. Nevertheless, once the basic techniques are mastered, race walking can actually be an easier sport to progress within, because competitors avoid the injuries that plaque runners.

Coach Khoo Chong Beng
In my earlier days, I was rather privileged to have met Khoo Chong Beng and be coached by him. Mr. Khoo won his first Gold medal and broke the SEA Games 20km walk record in 1971. In the 1973 SEA Games, he won another Gold and upped the Games record again. In 1976, he represented Malaysia in the Montreal Olympics and a year later, he won his third Gold at the Asia Track and Field Championship in Seoul and also his fourth Gold in the SEA Games with another record. The same year he was honoured the Best Sportsman of the Year award by the Olympic Council of Malaysia. Now most of his time is spent participating as an official or judge at international race walking events.

Training under Mr Khoo was fun because :
He never pressured me - His motto is to have fun, relax, enjoy the walk and never forget to smile.
He never pushed or rushed me - His advice is always to walk with the right techniques and get into the rhythm. Once you achieved the rhythm, you will automatically walk faster. In fact, slower pace builds solid skills enabling a walker to walk faster later.
All these take effort, patience and passion.
Effort because unlike running, every part of our body need the correct co-ordination in order to 'get into the groove'...therefore, you get to use your body's untapped resources. It takes time to master.
Patience because you just can not rush. A simple mistake eg. a skip, knee bend or if the feet fail to touch the ground is considered as illegal and one can get disqualified half way through the walk or even at the finishing!
Passion is like anything else...when there is no passion, one will not be able to progress further.
Nowadays, I observed a number of novice walkers rushing the learning process which resulted illegal techniques and other inefficient habits. Such habits quickly became ingrained and difficult to unlearn later.

The Malaysian Insurance Institute Big Walk
When I arrived at Dataran Merdeka, I already observed Kelvin Chow and several other serious walkers doing their warm-ups. Kelvin in particular, was all set and ready as he was really very anxious to win. He had messaged me several times before the race day to enquire on John's previous timing etc. I advised him to stay calm and enjoy the race just as Mr Khoo would say to me.

At the starting line, I met many seasoned walkers namely; Shew Keng, Tong Lean, Teoh Tay Wah, Siew Cheng and Agnes. Kamala was missing. Anyway, I was behind all of them soon after the gun off. As usual, I needed time to obtain my rhythm and was glad that it did not take me too long to begin walking smoothly and swiftly. Soon, I was enjoying my walk...then slowly but surely, I overtook my friends one by one.

As I was approaching the Parliament, I met Melvin (from FRIM)..he was fast and furious that morning, so I decided to just pace with him. Ah! later, I sighted John at Padang Merbok traffic light, he was there to cheer me and signalled to me that Shew Keng was 50 metres behind me. As the finishing line was about 800 metres away - Melvin suggested that I should just charge ahead. I took his advice, left him and went ahead.
I reached the finishing line....1st!

1 comment:

leesan said...

Hi We'll be having Khoo Chong Beng conduct a race walking workshop in Singapore tis coming March. Happen to come across your blog n your excellent write up on KCB. May we hav your permission to use your article in our promotion of the workshop ?
Thank you.
Dr Leong Lee San,
Chairman Race Walking Subcommittee, Singapore Athletics Association.