PETALING JAYA: A 75-year-old educationist is now a proud record holder in the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) for the most number of gold medals in Masters Athletics Competitions.
Veteran educator Thomas Kok has managed to bag 22 gold medals for race walking through various international and national events he participated in since 1986.
Describing the feat as a humbling one, Kok said his objective to gain MBR’s recognition is not for personal glory.
“My objective is to encourage people, educators in particular, that it is possible to maintain an active lifestyle.
“Educators need to be good role models and set good examples for the students. Students look up to you, even after you retire, so it is good to hold up the image and reputation of an educator, ” said the former principal of five schools as well as the Ipoh Learning and Training Institute.
A firm believer that the best teachers and educators are those who bring their personality, passion and experience to the learners, Kok – who has been an educationist since 1964 – urged educators to take up race walking and keep an active lifestyle despite handling other responsibilities.
“Race walking is a healthy sport that anyone can take part in – anytime, anywhere.
“It is like swimming, it exercises your whole body. It isn’t ordinary walking. You need to build up speed, get the rhythm right and follow the two rules, ” he said.
Race walking is a long-distance footrace in which the athletes must walk and not run.
In race walking, there is a rule known as the “straight leg rule, ” which means the moment the leading foot touches the ground and until the leg passes under the centre of the body, the knee is not allowed to bend.
Race walking is recognised by the World Masters Association and World Masters Games Association – both of which are recognised by the Olympics.
“Teachers can set an example and get students to participate together, ” said Kok, adding that it is easy to practise once it has been ingrained as a habit.
“It is a matter of discipline and making it into a daily routine. I don’t remember getting sick. The benefits of consistent exercise is you’ll sleep well and have a healthy appetite.”
An avid cyclist and participant of triathlons and marathons, Kok continues his race walking training for an hour six days a week without fail.
Besides being a 22-time gold medallist in the Asia Masters Athletics Championships (seven gold medals), Penang Starwalk (14 golds), Ipoh Starwalk (six golds), Malay Mail Big Walk (eight golds), Kok is also a four-time silver medallist and four-time bronze medallist in the World Masters Athletics Championships and World Masters Games.
His target is to be the first Malaysian gold medallist in the World Masters Athletics Championships and World Masters Games.
Describing Kok as an inspiring figure, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said it is rare to come across a retired educator who maintains an active lifestyle.
“As an educator and athlete, he has epitomised the spirit of determination and discipline. He is an example we can all look up to.
“Very few teachers and principals have the determination of steel to train and exercise consistently, ” he said at his office in Putrajaya after conferring the MBR certificate to Kok.
Besides Kok’s achievements in the sporting world, Dr Mah also praised Kok’s contribution to the education sector.
“He is the former principal of various schools, including ACS Ipoh for eight years,
“Upon his retirement, he also managed and ran the Ipoh learning and training institute, which provides English tuition to help students master the language, ” he said.
Over the years, added Dr Mah, the institution has trained students and helped raise the standard of English, especially of students in Chinese schools.