||In the first of a series of stories leading to the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship in Johannesburg on March 4, teams from Singapore are profiled. Above, the winning Mixed team from Singapore American School pauses for a photo.
Singapore's winning teams excited about
taking next steps to Championship
SINGAPORE, December 2, 2009 — Jasmine Wong knows all about long journeys beginning with a single step.
Last year she became the first Singaporean woman to complete the beautiful, but demanding, Mongolian Sunrise to Sunset ultra-marathon. She followed that up this year by running fast enough to help her Singapore Armed Forces team capture its third straight female title at Singapore's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.
Wille Loo finishes third at Singapore.
Talented, multi-sport team
wins spot in Championship
SINGAPORE, December 2, 2009 — Talk about race preparation. Before he entered his first triathlon, Adrian Ng didn't know how to swim. No problem. He taught himself, entered, and today not only coaches triathletes, but is a certified kayaking instructor.
Ng also is a member of the Bikelabz team that crushed the competition at the Singapore J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in April, winning the male title by more than nine minutes after placing three runners in the top five. The team title qualified Bikelabz for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship on March 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
”We are really excited by this opportunity!” said Wille Loo, Bikelabz Company Captain. ”We actually had no idea that the winning team would take part in a Championship race, so we were very surprised when we found out about it! We cannot wait to discover South Africa."
“The altitude that the race is taking place at will challenge us because of the low lying nature of Singapore,” he added. “We know that we will have our work cut out for us against the other runners as they have posted some really fast times in the other races, but we are keen to give a good account of ourselves and will be training hard for it!”
But then, training hard is something in the DNA not only of Bikelabz' runners, but the company itself.
Bikelabz started out as a bike shop committed to providing cyclists with professional service and high-quality products. Along the way, it developed into a force for coaching athletes and even helping grow sports in Singapore.
”A main focus for us is having athletes taking part in various multi-sport races around the region,” said Loo. ”Our athletes have made it to the podium in road cycling, mountain biking, triathlons, duathlons and running races throughout 2009. We established the triathlon division of the company at the start of 2009 to share our passion and knowledge with other athletes in Singapore. Triathlon is still a very young sport in Singapore and Bikelabz hopes to be a key proponent of its growth and development.”
The company's passion is reflected in the members of its winning Corporate Challenge Male team.
Drawing on his collegiate running experience, Melvin Wong finished second in Singapore. He is one of Singapore's top multi-sport athletes, recently winning his age group at the Subic Bay Duathlon in the Philippines. Loo finished third in Singapore and is a former competitive swimmer/water polo player who discovered the triathlon a half dozen years ago. Tan Yeow Chung was fifth in Singapore and is one of the area's top triathletes, helping train army personnel for running and multi-sport events. And Ng has become a top multi-sport athlete who was part of the selection team for the South East Asian Games duathlon team in 2007.
Obviously, this is a very fit and talented team, but Bikelabz didn't know what to expect when it lined up on the start line of the Singapore Corporate Challenge with 9,927 runners last April.
”We were surprised (with the big winning margin in the Male Team category),” said Loo. ”We had taken a look at the results from the 2008 edition of the Corporate Challenge so we knew that it would take some quick times to place well. All of us are multi-sport athletes and the timing of the Corporate Challenge was great for us because the race season in Singapore had just started. We spend a bit more time on longer distances, so we added a bit more speed work to our training to prepare for the event and we're very glad it helped!”
Now, they will get to test themselves against the best corporate runners in the world.
The ”surprise” victory will permit Wong to take another long journey. She and her teammates will join the mixed team champions from Singapore American School and the male team winners from Bikelabz (see story at left) on a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the first JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship ever held outside of the United States.
”It will definitely be an exciting and memorable experience,” said Chui Chin Tan, Company Captain for Singapore Armed Forces. ”We feel privileged to be invited and really appreciate the opportunity to be part of this sensational event. We're definitely looking forward to it.”
Those sentiments about this year's precedent-setting Championship are shared.
”It is daunting and exciting to know that we will be standing next to some world-class runners at the start line,” said Singapore American School (SAS) company captain Ian Coppell. ”We know that all the teams will be very strong, otherwise they wouldn't have qualified for this race. It will feel very special having our own Championship race prior to the Johannesburg Corporate Challenge.”
”I'm the only Brit on the team, and as I am a rugby and cricket fan, I'm very excited about running at The Wanderers,” he added. ”We are all excited about visiting Johannesburg and will visit Soweto, the Apartheid Museum and may head into Kruger after the race. I've visited southern Africa before and spent time in Swaziland and Zimbabwe. I lived in Kenya for three years. The other team members will be making their first trip to the region.”
This year's Championship will attract 36 winning teams from 12 cities on five continents to Johannesburg's Wanderers Club on March 4.
It is a race very much on the minds of the qualifiers from Singapore.
”Due to the importance of the event, the quality of the field, and the distance we are traveling, we are taking the event very seriously,” said Coppell. ”We have started training already, and are following schedules that will hopefully lead us to perform strongly in South Africa.”
The effort to peak at Johannesburg comes from a team that has entered every Corporate Challenge in Singapore since the event began in 2004. The effort also comes from a team that has been competitive in Singapore from the start. SAS has won several female and mixed team titles at Singapore before this year.
”In the first year we only entered runners, but since then we have opened it up to runners, joggers, walkers of all abilities, and regularly have over 100 participants,” said Coppell.
SAS was founded in 1956 as a response to the growing American community in the area, an important international financial center. SAS now has over 3,800 students from 3 to 18 years, and is one of the largest international schools in the world.
That lends itself to attracting a staff of educators that includes some fit and gifted runners, most notably the team traveling to Johannesburg — Coppell, Jeneane Paxson, Crystal Madsen and Mark Forgeron, who is subbing for injured Andrew Hallam, the individual men's champion at Singapore.
”We all enter a variety of events in Singapore, ranging from track meets, to cross-country, to longer events, and several of us have entered triathlons, biathlons, and duathlons,” said Coppell. ”I'm a high school cross-country coach, while Crystal coaches the middle school running club.”
As with SAS, Singapore Armed Forces also brings a variety of athletic backgrounds to its winning Female team. In fact one of the members, Siok San Lee, probably enjoys an activity that is unique among Championship qualifiers. An instructor in the Military Police Training School, she is a Dragon Boat paddler who also maintains her cardiovascular fitness by doing some distance running.
Chui Chin is an executive with the Army Fitness Center, and Kai Fen Ong is a physiotherapist who does rehabilitation work with Singapore's servicemen under the HQ Army Medical Services. Both love to run and enter numerous local events.
And then, there is Wong. A physiotherapist like her teammate Fen, Wong took on the challenge of Mongolian Sunrise to Sunset ultra-marathon in 2008. Known to some as the ”world's most beautiful 100-km run,” the ultra takes runners through verdant forests and past serene Lake Khovsgol. While the scenery is exquisite, the terrain and weather can be unforgiving, with participants having to bash through dense vegetation, endure hailstones and run at altitudes of up to 2,300 meters.
Wong became the first woman from Singapore to finish, coming in second in the women's category in 2008 with a time 18 hours and 40 minutes.
”Make it a personal achievement for yourself,” Wong said afterward. ”Believe you can do anything you set out to do!”
It's advice that has taken her a long way.
Visit www.jpmorganchasecc.com often in December, January and February as we provide a feature look at the participating companies from each city.