Weightlifting: Singapore's 1st Masters world champ took up sport for health, not excellence

World Masters champion Tan Lay Sang (in red) training at the Singapore Weightlifting Federation as her coach Wu Chuan Fu looks on. The trailblazer wants to create a Masters division within the SWF.
World Masters champion Tan Lay Sang (in red) training at the Singapore Weightlifting Federation as her coach Wu Chuan Fu looks on. The trailblazer wants to create a Masters division within the SWF. PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

When Tan Lay Sang decided to start exercising due to a family history of osteoporosis, the last thing on her mind was writing her name into Singapore's sports records.

Far from crumbling in fear of the condition that makes bones brittle, the 50-year-old became the Republic's first ever Masters weightlifter and competed at the Weightlifting Masters World Cup in Tokyo from April 11-15.

And she had even greater cause for celebration when she won gold in the women's 75kg (50-54 years) category, lifting a total of 94 kg - 44kg in the snatch and 50kg in the clean and jerk.

"I never thought of being a competitor, let alone one on the international stage," Tan, who only picked up the sport up three years ago, told The Straits Times.

"I never thought I was good enough, until the validation came from three important people."

The three people who encouraged her are her coach Patrick Siew, national weightlifting coach Wu Chuan Fu and Tom Liaw, president of the Singapore Weightlifting Federation (SWF).

"My job was just to lift the weights. All the strategising behind the scenes is all done by my coach. Without him, we would not have won the gold," she said.

BAR ASSOCIATION

The bar is either my friend or my enemy. I just need to figure out how to be one with it.

TAN LAY SANG, a lawyer turned weightlifting champion, on why the sport suits her introverted personality.

On her win, she said: "I don't know how to describe it. It's like uncontainable joy, I suppose."

Tan, a lawyer who retired at the start of the year and is single, initially started weightlifting as a means to keep fit.

But her personal trainer, Siew, decided to incorporate some elements of weightlifting into her training to boost her muscle mass and bone density.

He recalled: "Olympic lifting is something interesting that is added on to strength training. If the client doesn't like it, you would not force them to do it, but Lay Sang liked it, so I gave her more and more to do."

While maintaining her health was her original intention, her passion for the sport grew.

After winning in Tokyo, Tan has several competitions lined up, including the Oceania Masters Weightlifting Championships in Tasmania from June 3-5 and the International Weightlifting Federation Masters World Championships in Germany this October.

Her love for the sport is rooted in how it matches her personality.

She said: "Weightlifting is a sport that suits me perfectly because I am an introvert. So it's just me and the bar. The bar is either my friend or my enemy. I just need to figure out how to be one with it."

And she hopes that she has paved the way for future Masters weightlifters.

"The weightlifting scene in Singapore is not as vibrant as it should be, given that our first Olympic medallist, Tan Howe Liang, was a weightlifter," she said of the silver medallist at the 1960 Rome Games.

"I have started discussions with Tom about perhaps creating a Masters division within the SWF to encourage more Masters to come forward and represent Singapore in the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'HISTORY MADE WITH FUTURE CONCERNS'. Print Edition | Subscribe