Looking forward to 2017: The sports desk's wishes

Have fun but let's practise safe sport

Train hard, race smart. Get a check-up, go for comprehensive screening.
Train hard, race smart. Get a check-up, go for comprehensive screening.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore is often a sight to behold. Tens of thousands of runners, united in a sweaty passion, gathering under the glittering lights on Orchard Road.

There is, rightfully, pride and celebration at the end of a fine effort. But this year, there was also sorrow. For an athlete felled in the prime of his life.

We do not yet know what caused Hong Kong-based Briton John Gibson, 29, to collapse about a kilometre from the finish line of the half-marathon. But we do know this: His death was the 10th in an endurance sports event here in 11 years (since 2005).

Each of the 10 paid the ultimate price for their passion. Some had previously undetected health issues, others were deemed a "sudden cardiac death" or "heart failure", leaving us laymen none the wiser.

I would like to say that news of a death at the marathon shocked me. But in truth, it did not. The statistics could not be ignored.

In the wake of Gibson's death, I was heartened to learn that race organisers here had pledged to relook their safety protocols and are seeking to improve them.

But individuals need to do their part too. And so my New Year's wish is for YOU - the athlete, biathlete, duathlete, triathlete, miler, marathoner - to take sport safety seriously.

Ensure you are well prepared for an event. Train hard, race smart. Get a check-up, go for comprehensive screening. Sure these are additional costs, but so is a funeral.

These are not 100 per cent guarantees that one will not suffer a cardiac issue at an endurance event. Neither am I saying that screening would or could have saved the life of Gibson or any of the others.

But in sport, as in life, it is better to be safe than sorry. After all, safe sex is in. So why not safe sport?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 01, 2017, with the headline 'Have fun but let's practise safe sport'. Print Edition | Subscribe