When Lawrence Cho decided to take up bodybuilding after he retired at the age of 55, friends laughed at him.
“Yes, I was very upset that instead of encouraging me, they laughed at me,” said Cho, a former bank officer. But Cho is a determined man who is not easily discouraged. He knew it was something he had to do.
After 13 years, all his efforts paid off when Cho emerged as champion in the Masters category (aged 45 and above) at the Mr Kuala Lumpur championship in 2001. Cho was 68 then. He remembers vividly that day when the emcee announced: “The oldest contestant is the champion!”
That was Cho’s first gold haul. He had bagged a silver in Mr Kuala Lumpur 1993 (Masters category), a silver in the Kuala Lumpur Bodybuilding Championship 1998 (Masters category), and another silver in Mr Selangor 2002 (Masters category).
Cho had vied for the Mr Malaysia championship in Sabah in 2001. He was placed fourth.
Today, at 82, Cho can boast an impressive haul of 20 medals and trophies from various competitions which he had taken part in, in the past 27 years.
Cho is proud to be the oldest bodybuilding competitor in the country. He was presented the prestigious Certificate of Merit by the Asian Body Building Federation.
“On my 80th birthday, I signed up for the Super Seniors category (aged 55 and above) of the Kuala Lumpur Bodybuilding Championship, and took third place. I was the oldest competitor,” said Cho, who has four children and 11 grandchildren.
With his strict diet and exercise regime, Cho is living proof that seniors who are passionate about bodybuilding can still win championships. He does regular workouts at the gym or in his home in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
Cho was an athlete in his younger days. He played badminton, table tennis, football, basketball and cricket.
He played badminton well into his 40s, and stopped when he found the game too strenuous.
“Games and sports are good for health and slows down ageing,” said Cho. His youthfulness and vitality are proof that his exercise regime keeps him in good shape. At home, he lifts dumb bells to tone his muscles.
“I’m scared of having droopy muscles,” he said, with a laugh.
“Bodybuilding, unlike strenuous games and sports, allows a person time to rest the body when tired,” said Cho, in explaining why he took up bodybuilding.
I’m scared of having droopy muscles.
“A year ago, I was diagnosed with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD),” said Cho, who is undergoing treatment at the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital. He is glad that his eye condition has improved, and he does not experience anymore episodes of blurred vision.
Cho has acted on the advice of his eye specialist, to temporarily put on hold his part-time job as personal trainer. He hopes to pick up the thread once his eye health improves.
Cho’s interest in personal fitness motivated him to set up a gym when he retired in 1988. He sold the gym three years ago when a buyer bought the whole building. “Even today, people still call me up and tell me they want to join my gym,” said Cho.
After selling off his gym, Cho worked as a personal trainer at a friend’s bodybuilding gym in Taman Sri Sentosa, Kuala Lumpur. His friend, Wong Hong, 45, had won the Mr Asia title in 1999 and 2011, and Mr Universe title in 2011.
Like any serious bodybuilder, Cho is mindful of his diet. He eats healthily to stay in top form. On a regular day, he takes one or two half-boiled eggs and oats. For lunch, he has rice and steamed chicken or fish and vegetables.
When Cho is preparing for a bodybuilding competition, he observes a strict diet two to three months before the event.
He starts the day with a bowl of oats and half-boiled egg whites. After training mid-morning, he takes a whey protein drink and an apple.
For lunch, he has half a bowl of rice and steamed chicken breast and vegetables. At teatime, he drinks black coffee. At night, he skips rice but takes steamed potatoes.
Closer to the competition day, Cho has five to six meals a day which includes 15 eggs (mostly egg whites with two or three egg yolks).
A few weeks before a competition, Cho would give himself a good tan for an hour or two every day, to make his muscles look more well-defined.
“I want to join a bodybuilding competition next year. I want to rock the stage again,” said Cho. “It does not matter if I win or lose, I just want to be there.”