Sacrificing to attain his Olympic dream

Sacrificing to attain his Olympic dream
Dr Mok Ying Ren, an orthopaedic surgeon and a 2-time SEA Games gold medalist.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Two hours, 19 minutes.

For Singapore marathoner Mok Ying Ren, 27, that's the time he needs to meet to make his dream of qualifying for the marathon event at the Olympic Games in Rio next year come true.

To turn this dream into reality, Dr Mok has been making several sacrifices to beat his personal best of 2:26:30 he clocked at the Gold Coast Marathon in 2013.

The orthopaedic surgery resident at the National University Hospital (NUH) has placed his medical career on hold in order to move to Boulder, Colorado in the US for a year to train.

"My friends tried to discourage me. They asked why. After all, I was picked for the coveted residency in orthopaedic surgery at NUH.

"I spoke to the older doctors and they said I should just do it, live my dream. I'm grateful the hospital and my mentors are really understanding," he said.

Dr Mok said he made the decision when he met Boulder Track Club head coach Lee Troop at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

"I shared my plans with him and he was willing to help me in my Olympic quest and thus it was an easy decision to move up there (to the US where Mr Troop is based) to train under him."

Mr Troop, 42, represented Australia in the marathon event at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.


Dr Mok added that he is also grateful to sponsors such as Pocari Sweat, Brooks, AirAsia and Brands as well as NUH, which approved his one-year no-pay leave request, for making it possible for him to train in the US.

His move to the US required another sacrifice - being away from his family.

But he is able to take it in his stride as he has been away from his family before, having stayed in a hostel while in medical school.

His injuries are another factor to consider. His latest one was from a freak accident in October that resulted in a partial tear in his right retina.

He was stretching with an elastic band when it slipped off his foot and hit him square in the eyes. He temporarily lost partial vision in his left eye and could not see with his right eye for several hours.

His injured right eye needed a laser procedure and he was advised by his ophthalmologist to not run and rest for a month. It cost him his month-long plan to race in Japan.

He returned to Singapore for further treatment and monitoring. Once given the green light, he ran the Standard Chartered Marathon on Dec 6 and came in first in the local men's category. (See report above.)

Dr Mok is no stranger to sports injuries.

A shin injury caused him to miss the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July last year. Otherwise, he would have been Singapore's first male marathoner at the quadrennial meet.

He recovered enough by December that year to make a comeback at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014, only to hurt his left gluteal muscle.

It cost him his chance to defend his SEA Games marathon champion title on homeground in June this year.

"It was a dark period for me," he said.

It was only in September this year that he was well enough to run his comeback race at the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, where he timed 1:08:22, just 53 secs off his personal best of 1:07:29.

Despite all these setbacks, Dr Mok said he still has his eyes on the target - representing Singapore in the marathon event at the Rio Olympics next year.

"Life has its ups and downs but if you keep pushing the envelope, there is a high chance that you will succeed eventually," he said.

This article was first published on December 15, 2015.
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