Have you ever pushed your body to its physical limits? That’s the entire point of an endurance race, but putting your body under so much strain can have disastrous consequences if you aren’t careful. Exercise is widely known to be good for you, but sometimes it could lead to fatal incidents. Many of the following people had undetected health conditions that resulted in them suddenly dropping dead after or during an endurance race.
As we continue to challenge our limits in the next endurance race, let’s give a minute of silence to give our respect and honour these athletes that we have lost.
Love has no age, no limit; and no death.
Deaths in Singapore Running Events and Endurance Races
1. Name of casualty: Ho Wai Piew
Event: New Balance Corporate Triathlon 2005
Occurrence: New Balance Corporate Triathlon 2005 was held back in October 2005. During his attempt at the 750-meter swim, the 40-year-old Mr. Ho Wai Piew suddenly suffered a heart attack. He was pulled out of the race immediately and sent to the hospital for further treatment. Mr. Ho later then passed away in the hospital. An autopsy attributed his death to drowning, heart attack and advanced coronary artery disease. This was his first time participating in a triathlon.
Cause of death: Drowning, Heart Attack, and Advanced Coronary Arterial Disease
2. Name of casualty: Colonel Bernard Tan Cheow Han
Event: Singapore Biathlon 2006
Occurrence: The Singapore Biathlon 2006 was held on 26 March 2006 at East Coast Park. Around 600 meters from the finish line, 39-year-old Colonel Bernard Tan collapsed. The medical crew was dispatched immediately and attempted to resuscitate him. Despite using the defibrillator three times, the crew still failed to do so. After he was rushed to Changi General Hospital, it was determined that Mr. Tan had suffered sudden cardiac death.
Cause of death: Sudden Cardiac Death
3. Name of casualty: Thaddeus Cheong
Event: SEA Games Selection Race 2007
Occurrence: The Singapore Bay Run 2007 was held on 23 June 2007 in Changi. The 17-year-old first-year student at Raffles Junior College had just swum 1.5 kilometers, cycled 40 kilometers and ran 10 kilometers. After clocking a new personal best, he collapsed onto the ground. Thaddeus was unconscious and foaming at the mouth when he was taken to Changi General Hospital, where doctors were unable to resuscitate him. Unfortunately, he passed away after that.
Cause of death: Unnatural Death (possible over-exhaustion)
4. Name of casualty: Ho Si Qiu
Event: SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon 2007
Occurrence: The Singapore Bay Run 2007 was held on 26 August 2007 at Esplanade Drive, and it began around 5:30 a.m. Around 7 a.m., 25-year-old platoon commander Mr. Ho Si Qiu collapsed at the end of his 21-kilometer run. A medical team immediately attended to his needs and sent him to Singapore General Hospital. However, he was pronounced dead even after attempts to revive him with resuscitation drugs and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Cause of death: Possible Heart Conditions
5. Name of casualty: Calvin Lee Wee Sing
Event: Osim Singapore International Triathlon 2009
Occurrence: The OSIM Singapore International Triathlon 2009 was held on 1 -2 August at East Coast Car Park E2. On 2 August, Sunday, 42-year-old CEO of Deutsche Telekom Asia Mr Calvin Lee was competing in the swim segment of the Mix/Open relay race with his colleagues, when he appeared to be struggling and disoriented in the water about 350 metres away from the finish line. He was unconscious when brought ashore on a jet ski. Doctors and paramedics failed to revive him, and he was rushed to Changi General Hospital where he was pronounced dead in the afternoon.
Cause of death: Unnatural Death
6. Name of casualty: Malcolm Sng Wei Ren
Event: Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2011
Occurrence: The SCSM 2011 was held on 4 December 2011 at the Padang and started around 5 a.m. Around 8:30 a.m., 22-year-old Mr. Malcolm Sng suddenly collapsed after reaching the finish line. He was immediately rushed towards Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for further investigation and was pronounced dead from an unnatural cause an hour later. However, it was later determined that Mr. Sng had passed away from acute coronary insufficiency and had an abnormal coronary artery, which had been previously undetected.
Cause of death: Heart Condition
7. Name of casualty: Goh Kai Lin
Event: Nike We Run 2013
Occurrence: The Nike We Run 2013 was held around 7:15 a.m. on 3 November 2013 at the F1 Pit Building. 250 meters before the finishing line, 25-year-old Ms. Goh Kai Lin was pacing slowly when she abruptly collapsed onto the ground. She was soon rushed to the hospital but, unfortunately, it was too late. A coroner’s report deemed that she had passed away from acute coronary insufficiency and had an abnormal coronary artery which had been previously undetected.
Cause of death: Acute Coronary Insufficiency
8. Name of Casualty: Martynn Koh Tong Yong
Event: 2XU Compression Run 2014
Occurrence: The 2XU Compression Run 2014 was held on 2 March 2014, at Nicoll Highway around 4:30 a.m. Around 5 a.m., Mr. William Muk noticed a fellow participant suddenly dropped to the ground in front of him at the 11-kilometer mark. After assessing the situation, an ambulance immediately rushed to the scene to pick up the fallen runner, 45-year-old Mr. Martynn Koh. Unfortunately, he was later pronounced dead at the hospital due to unnatural causes.
Cause of Death: Unnatural Death
9. Name of Casualty: John Ying Wah Gibson
Event: The SCSM 2016 was held on 4 December 2016 at Orchard Road and began around 4:30 a.m. Around 6:30 a.m., 28-year-old Mr. John Gibson was seen tottering aimlessly one kilometer before the finish line, pale and unresponsive. His eyes were rolled back and his mouth was gaping. After collapsing, he was transported to Singapore General Hospital, but by then there was no electrical activity in Gibson’s heart. Despite resuscitation efforts, he was pronounced dead from sudden cardiac arrest due to natural causes.
Cause of death: Lethal Cardiac Arrhythmia
10. Name of Casualty: Stephen Begley
Event: Singapore International Triathlon 2017
Occurrence: The SIT 2017 was held on 10 September 2017 at East Coast Park around 6 a.m. Around 10 a.m., 42-year-old Mr. Stephen Begley, an ex-Scots rugby star was spotted experiencing difficulties in the sea when the officials then decided to pull him up. Unfortunately, he was already unconscious by then. The medical crew attempted to resuscitate him but to no avail. He was then rushed to Singapore General Hospital for further investigation, but he ended up passing away during treatment.
Cause of death: Possible Heart condition and Drowning
11. Name of Casualty: Freddie Lim
Event: The Straits Times Run 2017
Occurrence: The Straits Times Run 2017 was held on 16 July 2017 at Marina Bay Sands around 7 a.m. Around 7:43 a.m. 62-year-old retiree Mr. Freddie Lim was taking part in the 10-kilometer category run when he suddenly collapsed after the 5-kilometer mark on Republic Avenue. The medics on site were alerted and immediately attended to him one minute after his fall. He was then put into an ambulance and rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital at 7:56 A.M.. Unfortunately, Mr. Lim passed away the next night.
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
12. Name of Casualty: Wong Chung Kent
Event: Safra Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon 2018
Occurrence: The Safra Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon 2018 was held on 26 August 2018 at Esplanade Bridge around 4:30 a.m. Around 8 a.m., after the event, 46-year-old Mr. Wong Chung Kent suddenly felt an excruciating chest pain while having a meal at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. The medical team was not alerted that Mr. Wong required medical attention until 9:15 a.m. An SCDF ambulance rushed to the scene to transport him to the hospital. Unfortunately, he passed away in the hospital two days later, and many friends and colleagues paid tribute to him.
Cause of death: Excruciating Pain in the Chest
Preparation is Vital
To prevent incidents like these from happening, you must take care when participating in endurance races. If you are unsure whether you are ready, here are some tips you can follow:
- Preparation is essential – Participate in proper training programmes including strength, stamina, resistance, and flexibility training
- Dress appropriately – DryFit/Cotton (Breathable) T-shirts, flexible running shorts, proper running shoes
- Stay hydrated at all times – isotonic drinks, plain water (recommended)
- Those with underlying risk factors (smokers, diabetics, those with hypertension or elevated cholesterol levels) should go for a pre-participation screening
- For those 35 years or older pre-participation screening is also recommended. Do not force yourself to run if you are really unable to do so
Despite these preparations, doctors claimed that people who exercise regularly still run the risk of heart failure during a marathon if they have an undetected, pre-existing heart condition. Only extra strains on the heart trigger the sudden cardiac arrest.
Therefore, you must keep your health in check for the future. Even if you are a young and apparently healthy person, take note of any symptoms you have such as an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, or congestion. These can be signs that you should visit a cardiologist.
Let’s continue to be vigilant and stay safe so we can continue to enjoy the sports we love in many years to come.