Ling Er met with an accident while she was cycling about 5 years ago. It left her with a broken left leg, right knee and ankle, as well as a blood clot in her brain. Doctors concluded that her body would not regain complete movement given her biomechanics and needless to say, the probability of her being able to compete again would be minimal.

“Living by my standards and doing what I love makes me feel rich.”

Some of us give up in light of adversity, some of us persevere and emerge as better versions of ourselves. Ling Er chose the latter – she is now on a mission to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Over here, we catch a glimpse of her life and journey of how she evidently proved her doctors and the world wrong. More importantly, we understand that success is derived from the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out; and of course, coupled with the unwavering support from her family and friends.

Tell us more about your background. How has your past shaped you to be who you are now?

I used to work for a German Sound Engineering company during my polytechnic days. After which, I have had my hand in sports retail to accommodate the sporting lifestyle that I was growing into. I wouldn’t say that’s what shaped me to be doing what I am right now but rather, adapting immediately during an opportune time.Choo Ling Er, Singapore’s only Ironman Triathlete Overcome Boundaries

Tell us more about your work. How did you get started becoming an Ironman athlete? 

I am a full-time athlete for the past few years and believed to be the only one in Singapore thus far. I am competitive by nature and have had some strings of good results, but there were limitations to what I felt I was realistically able to achieve. After much deliberation, I then quit my day job and went ahead into becoming a full-time athlete.

How is it different? How is it useful? What are your strengths that made you such a great athlete?

Doing this full time as my job is the best benefit for me. The most pertinent problem I faced when I had a full-time job was my recovery. I was working retail hours, and that meant barely getting 7 hours of sleep, given my daily training incorporated into my lifestyle. That is less than ideal for anybody who has a big dream of turning professional. I am now able to take naps in the afternoon, and my body can recover from my afternoon and/or evening workouts.

Choo Ling Er, Singapore’s only Ironman Triathlete Overcome Boundaries

What do you love about your job? 

Some of us work because we need to address the financial aspect of living in Singapore. In a triathlon, there are 3 disciplines which require 3 different types of training. When I wake up every single day, it makes me hungry to perfect them. Living by my standards and doing what I love makes me feel productive.

 

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you? Maybe, someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life? 

My fiancé is one of my biggest hero and motivator for me. He’s an incredibly smart and funny guy to be around, as well as the only one that’s crazy enough to encourage and support me to quit my job and do this full-time. It wasn’t as easy as it seems just to leave a full-time job to pursue triathlon whole-heartedly. Living in Singapore, the biggest hurdle is the financial burden as well as the need to manage sponsors. He sets clear goals for me and is always very objective with his approach. And his hunger for me to perform and be at my best on my race day is just a phenomenon. He’s doing all this concurrently while holding a full-time job that sometimes requires him to travel for almost a month! He inspires me. Seeing him put in an incredible amount of effort into supporting me in this aspect; I know that I am not alone and I want to do it for the both of us. That being said, I am surrounded by many great friends who have supported me unconditionally. They don’t need to be mentioned and know I have them in my heart.

“Always stick true and never forget what made you fall in love with the sport in the first place”

Choo Ling Er, Singapore’s only Ironman Triathlete Overcome BoundariesCould you describe one of your typical days? 

I typically get up at about 4 am to consume my first breakfast before my first workout. I’ll get home around 8 am to have my recovery drink and start on my 2nd breakfast after. I rest for awhile and do some stretching with occasional yoga (not that I am any good with it! I am still crap!) Nap time starts around 11 am. Subsequently, I’ll have my lunch and start packing my gears for the 2nd session. I’ll then have dinner with Alan and sleep before 10 pm. This would be on repeat every single day. While preparing for an Ironman training, my weekly training will be within the range of 25 to 35 hours. Depending on what I am working on specifically.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging? 

One common misconception is that since I do not have a job, I have ample time. Contrary to that, my day is a perpetual rush to either run errands or to make sure I am on schedule. I wish on most days; I have 25hours in a day!

What do find most enjoyable?

The best part of what I do is the travelling aspect that I get to have during my races. With the people, I have in my life and the ones that I meet, I see myself growing as an athlete and as a person as well.

Are there any negatives to your job? 

If you love what you do, you never really feel that it’s ever a job.

Advice for fellow athletes?

Choo Ling Er, Singapore’s only Ironman Triathlete Overcome Boundaries

My first tip: For any athlete who is beginning to pick up the sport and want to do well, always stick true and never forget what made you fall in love with the sport in the first place. I’ve seen lots of athletes start off too hard and too serious. Subsequently, they get burnt out over time. Sports is meant to keep you healthy and should be fun. You shouldn’t be in a rush to get anywhere!

My second tip: When you are going for a race, always respect the race and the many people who have been there before you. Stay humble regardless of your achievements. Everybody has a journey and story before they got to where they were. Being at the starting point of the Kona World Championships is not an easy feat. You either qualify by finishing 12 Ironman races to get a slot, or you need to come on top for your age group to win a slot. Being ambitious is a good trait to possess because as an athlete, you want to break boundaries. But calling it out loudly without even doing one race is a bit delusional. Determined and ambitious you are, modest your approach you should. Along the way then, more people will extend help to you.

 

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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).