23 November 2017
By Wong Jeng Teng
Last Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the Swissôtel Vertical Marathon in Singapore, and this year’s event saw more than 2,000 participants, including several TeamSG athletes, scale 73 storeys to reach the peak of one of Southeast Asia’s tallest hotels.
TeamSG Athletes at the finish line of the Swissotel Vertical Marathon
L-R: TeamSG Golfers Gregory Foo and Jerome Ng, TeamSG Rower Syahir Rafa'ee, TeamSG Track & Field Athlete Jackie Chionh, TeamSG Rower Saiyidah Aisyah, and TeamSG Wushu Athlete Tan Xiang Tian
The event was graced by guests-of-honour Jasna Lazarevic, diplomatic attaché from the Embassy of Switzerland in Singapore, Priscilla Gan, director of relations and engagement at the Community Chest, and Chiang Hock Woon, Sport Singapore’s Deputy CEO.
Deputy CEO of Sport Singapore, Dr Chiang Hock Woon, presenting the prizes to the champion of the Individual (Men’s Open) category
TeamSG rowers Saiyidah Aisyah and Syahir Rafa’ee, golfers Gregory Foo and Jerome Ng, track athlete Jackie Chionh, and shooter Alvina Neo took part in the race, while sprint legend U.K. Shyam and wushu exponent Tan Xiang Tian gave out medals to winners from several categories.
TeamSG Athletes (Gregory Foo, Jerome Ng, U K Shyam, Jackie Chionh, Alvina Neo and Tan Xiang Tian) posing with Community Chest Singapore Director Priscilla Gan (middle in orange)
For para-athletes Chionh and Neo, this year was their seventh and eighth time conquering the Swissôtel Vertical Marathon respectively. Taking on the arduous challenge despite their physical limitations was their way of proving that getting active could be a way of life for everyone.
“I want to show people that people with disabilities can actually do things [in] the same [way] or even better than able-bodied people. To me, disability doesn’t stop me, it makes me challenge the impossible,” said Chionh, who depended solely on the strength of his left arm and leg to complete the 73-storey challenge.
“There [were] people running past me, [saying] ‘If I didn’t see you, I would’ve given up.’ They go up to the helipad to wait for me, just to take a picture,” Neo shared, heartened that her efforts had touched some Singaporeans.
Meanwhile, Aisyah, Syahir, Foo, and Ng ran in the Corporate Category, alongside some staff members from Swissôtel The Stamford, a spexBusiness partner of Sport Singapore.
TeamSG Athletes with Swissotel management including Hotel Manager Ms Katya Herting (middle in orange)
The group also included hotel manager Katya Herting, who was happy to have the athletes take part in the marathon alongside fellow Singaporeans. “One of the brand pillars of Swissôtel is vitality, so when we started our collaboration with Sport Singapore, that was the link that brought us all together,” said Herting.
She added that having the athletes on board was a great way to inspire more locals to join the yearly affair.
“We want the event to be as endearing to the local public as possible. The hotel has been standing for 30 years here, running this event for every single year. We’d love for this generation of Singaporeans to be part of it, and participate year after year,” she said.
First-time participant Aisyah shared similar sentiments. “[Through this event], I hope that [Singaporeans] will continue to participate in more sports. Although sports is part of our lifestyle, we started from nothing. We are living proof that exercise can be done every day,” she said.
TeamSG Rowers Saiyidah Aisyah and Syahir Rafa'ee (her brother) at the finish line of the Swissotel Vertical Marathon
Besides enjoying the challenge, the Olympic rower also cherished the opportunity for TeamSG athletes like herself to interact with Singaporeans.
“More of these kind of events should be conducted and more athletes should come forward. The community won’t support [us] if they don’t know who the athletes are, so we have to get out there,” she continued, adding that participants cheered her on as she passed them in the stairwell.
Foo concurred: “I think it creates more awareness for us athletes, people get to know us a bit more, on a personal level, instead of reading it in the newspapers. It’s a great way to meet some of them in person and engage with them.”
One of the marathon’s participants Jerry Koh, was certainly happy to have this rare and unexpected chance to interact with TeamSG representatives.
“It was a very pleasant surprise and a good form of engagement for fellow Singaporeans. By sharing their [the TeamSG athletes’] experiences and training tips, it serves as good encouragement to all participants,” said the 33-year-old.
“The athletes are real-life examples and great influencers on how to lead a fulfilling, active lifestyle. It will definitely help in getting more locals to start on a more active style of living,” he noted.
To assist more Singaporeans to take greater ownership and responsibility for their health, an Active Health booth was also set up at the Swissotel The Stamford on the event day. The booth comprised stations where participants could get better information on their body composition and BMI, as well as take the handgrip strength test that measures static strength of the hand and forearm, while also predicting functional status of older adults.
Participants at the Active Health booth
Besides these experiential assessments, the booth also helped provide tips on improving health holistically through the four Active Health domains of Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, Sleep and Screen Time.