Senior record holder took up sport to avert dementia

Madam Phua Peck Ling doing the Cycle stacking sequence.ST VIDEO: ALEXIS ONG

Madam Phua Peck Ling first spotted a brochure for a cup stacking interest group at the void deck of her Housing Board block about four years ago.

What caught her eye was the claim that cup stacking could stave off dementia.

She decided to give it a shot and started going to Hwi Yoh Community Centre in Serangoon North every Friday night to stack with the interest group for about two hours.

"I didn't know anyone from there previously, but somehow we all mixed very well," said Madam Phua, now 62.

Her left hand has become stronger because of stacking, said Madam Phua, who is right-handed.

"Sometimes I'll practise for a full hour or more and be covered in perspiration," she said.

"I also feel like I am thinking faster when I stack."

She had been stacking for only three months when one of her friends suggested joining an inter-community centre competition "for fun".

Madam Phua ended up placing third in the Cycle event, which requires her to upstack and downstack three different formations consecutively in the shortest time.

She got to know Mr Allan Ong, who heads the Singapore branch of the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA), through stacking events. He encouraged her and a few friends to join the WSSA 2014 World Sport Stacking Championships in Jeonju, South Korea.

The Singapore team had the oldest participant - aged 76 - among all the senior stackers who took part in the competition.

Their biggest challenge: running to and from the table to stack during the relay race, as some faced mobility issues.

"We even strategised to catch some of the older stackers as they ran back, in case they couldn't stop properly," said Madam Phua.

That, however, did not stop them from setting a world record for the seniors division.

While the record was broken the next year by a German team, Madam Phua is proud of their achievement and treasures what she has gained through stacking.

"I was jumping around (when we set the record)," she said. "I felt like our hard work actually paid off."

Through practice, Madam Phua has improved her timings. For instance, it used to take her 20 seconds to complete the Cycle sequence. Now, she holds the national record for all three competitive sequences in the female senior citizens division, with a Cycle timing of 12.148 seconds.

Madam Phua does not stack competitively any more, but volunteers to help out at some interest group sessions and competitions.

She is still in touch with her stacking group. They now meet regularly for drum lessons, their new hobby, and took part in the Chingay this year.

She said: "Some elderly folks aren't so keen (on stacking). They might think, 'why do it if I'm always going to lose?'

"They misunderstand the idea of stacking. It's a competition against yourself, not others."

She added: "It's the happiness you feel when you improve your own timing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Senior record holder took up sport to avert dementia'. Print Edition | Subscribe