Cycling: Seven-year-old covers 75km in 5 hours; veteran gives boy his medal for 'amazing' feat

Avid cyclist Loh Yew Kwong gave Muhammad Afi (left) an OCBC Ride 2021 medal to encourage him after the latter's personal achievement was shared on Facebook. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - Avid cyclist Loh Yew Kwong, 66, started browsing cycling-related posts on Facebook only recently but on June 20, one caught his eye.

The note by Madam Farah Sophia Soffi in SG PCN Cyclist, a group for local cycling enthusiasts on the social media platform, updated the members on her son's latest cycling accomplishment. Seven-year-old Muhammad Afi had finished a round trip between his Bukit Panjang home and Coney Island on June 4, taking just over five hours to clock the 75km distance.

With this, the Primary 1 pupil bettered his previous personal best of 50km, achieved less than a year ago with his uncle on a single-speed bike.

Mr Loh, a warehouse supervisor, told The Straits Times: "It's really amazing that he cycled a distance of 75km at his age. I would think that young kids like him usually cannot do such long distances.

"For many adults, achieving even 40km in distance is a big challenge already."

So impressed was Mr Loh that he reached out to Madam Sophia, 34, on Facebook, and presented his OCBC Cycle 2021 medal and a Transformers toy to Afi when they met at Bukit Panjang MRT the next evening.

He had received the medal from participating in the Sportive Virtual Ride (42km) during this year's OCBC Cycle. It was the first time the veteran cyclist, who used to ride in Malaysia on a monthly basis, had given away his medal to someone he did not know, and who was as young as Afi.

"I hope this motivates him in his cycling journey and encourages people to participate in more cycling events," he said.

Madam Sophia's family also includes her husband, Mr Muhammad Yusof, 38, and another son, 13-month-old Muhammad Aqif. She said they were "really moved" by Mr Loh's gesture, adding that Afi was inspired by the veteran and even shed tears of joy, having never received a medal like that before.

Ironically, Afi's achievement was unexpected as the June 4 ride was to have involved only Madam Sophia and three of her friends.

The stay-home mum said: "It was supposed to be just me and my friends going on this cycling trip, you know, a chance for some 'me time'.

"And when he said he wanted to come along, I was a little hesitant because I knew the distance was going to be very long."

Eventually, she gave in to his pleas as he had never been to Coney Island, and her initial concerns were allayed as he kept up easily with the group and even kept pace with the fastest cyclist among them.

Afi's cycling journey began shortly before he turned four. The activity has since become a family affair, but initially it started out as a way of saving money on transport fares.

Madam Sophia explained: "In the past, I would take him to school and pick him up by bus and I realised how many trips I had to make to and fro and the cost was adding up, so I decided to just start cycling instead since the distance was quite short anyway.

"Why burn fuel when you can burn energy?"

(From left) Madam Farah Sophia Soffi, Muhammad Afi and Mr Loh Yew Kwong near Kallang Wave Mall on June 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

Cycling is now the family's main mode of transport on a daily basis, to reach places within their vicinity, such as visits to relatives staying nearby, for meals and visits to shopping malls.

The widespread praise on social media for both Afi's achievement and Mr Loh's generous gesture caught the attention of OCBC, which organises the annual OCBC Cycle for cycling enthusiasts in Singapore.

The bank reached out to both parties and organised an early morning ride from the Singapore Sports Hub to the Merlion Park and back on Sunday (June 27) and also provided breakfast.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, its head of group brand and communications, said: "The story of Mr Loh and Afi is simply heartening. We are glad that without a physical event, OCBC Cycle continues to bring people together, even strangers. Mr Loh's generosity and kindness have touched many hearts.

"We are equally impressed by Afi's cycling feat at such a young age. We are grateful for Mr Loh and Afi showing us that friendships can be forged through cycling that transcend age and generational gaps."

Both Afi and Mr Loh were also presented with tokens of appreciation by OCBC, including a replacement medal for Mr Loh as well as a Timbuk2 backpack, Hydro Flask water bottle and shopping vouchers.

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