Athletics: Veterans Ajit Singh, Glory Barnabas and Margaret Oh at Asia Masters Athletics Championships

(From left to front) Linda Oh, Christina Tay, Ajit Singh, Glory Barnabas and Margaret Oh will be competing in the Asia Masters Athletics Championships starting today. The five-day meet will bring together 2,000 athletes aged 35 years and above, from
(From left to front) Linda Oh, Christina Tay, Ajit Singh, Glory Barnabas and Margaret Oh will be competing in the Asia Masters Athletics Championships starting today. The five-day meet will bring together 2,000 athletes aged 35 years and above, from 25 countries.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

S'pore plays host for the 4th time and fields largest-ever 175-strong contingent at c'ships

Ajit Singh played hockey for Singapore at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and also represented the country in cricket.

And now at 89, he is ready to conquer track and field when he makes his debut today at the Asia Masters Athletics Championships.

Entered in the 5,000m race-walking event (85-89 years category), Ajit is also the oldest member of the 175-strong Singapore contingent at the five-day meet.

The competition starts today and it is held at both the National Stadium and the Kallang Practice Track.

Said Ajit: "I have been at the top in other sports, but not in athletics yet. I want to win the gold tomorrow (today)."

He walks 12 rounds around the track at the Yio Chu Kang or Toa Payoh stadiums every day. To prepare for the meet, he has temporarily stopped playing golf for three weeks. He said: "(Even though) I was never an athlete before, walking is never a problem for me. Our bodies are ageless."

NEVER TOO OLD

Even though) Iwas never an athlete before, walking is never a problem for me. Our bodies are ageless.

AJIT SINGH, former national hockey player, on takingup trackand field at the age of 89.

Among the other veterans are former national sprinters Margaret Oh, 55, and Glory Barnabas, 74.

Barnabas feels that the competition provides a glimpse of the golden era of Singapore athletics which the country enjoyed in the 70s, and it will inspire the current generation of athletes.

Said the 1973 South-east Asia Peninsular Games 200m champion: "We are role models for the younger ones, many of whom are not doing sports."

While she is no longer sprinting, she has switched to jumps and has tasted success too. She won a silver in the women's high jump (70-74 years category) and a bronze in the long jump at the competition's last edition in Kitakami, Japan.

Given that the meet is back in Singapore after 24 years, it also marks a reunion for Singapore's former track and field stars.

It is the largest contingent the Republic has fielded at the biennial championships, which will feature about 2,000 athletes aged 35 years and above, from 25 countries including Turkey, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Russia.

This is the fourth time that Singapore is hosting the competition, after the 1981, 1985 and 1992 editions.

Barnabas said: "It gives opportunities to athletes like us to carry on the skills they have learnt and have excelled in."

While a foot injury has ruled Oh out of the 100m, she will be racing in the 4x100m relay (55-59 years category). The current coach of 200m SEA Games women's champion Shanti Pereira said: "Competing or not, it's not that important. I like to run and enjoy it with my old friends."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Ageless veterans unite'. Print Edition | Subscribe