Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Anywayz, Team MingLing just can't get 'nuff of all that torture and have just signed our lives away for this year's Action Asia Challenge 2006! *gulp* Evidence that we're suffering from short-term memory loss......it'll all come back to haunt us again when the pain hits us where it hurts most during the race! Yikes!
At least we'll have good company : Becks and Rina are forming an all ladies team, and Tian and Cyen have also decided to jump on the bandwagon! To read more about Tian+Cyen's belated account of the 2004 race, click here.
Then called Team Ming-a-Ling, have yet to complete our write-up of the 2004 race...hope this is not an indication of our snail-paced perfomance this year! Hee hee!
Check out the following articles on the 1st Action Asia Challenge back in 2004...the merlion.......all the squid bodies.....the bridges.....it's all coming back to me now! Double yikes!
39 more days to go before 3 September 2006! *shudders* Only thing I'll be doing consistently from now til then is carboloading on kettle chips! Haha!
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Can we really enjoy broadcast sports without a sports commentator? Well, maybe only if you're sitting in a pub with other thugs with nothing between you and the TV screen but an unlimited supply of beer!
Having watched a couple of World Cup matches and some of the Tour de France stage races, I am totally amazed by the knowledge about the sport and the competitors amassed by the live sports commentators! They are literally walking encyclopaedias who not only know what the hell is going on, but are able to read the game/competition, give their personal assessment / analysis of the situation, and most importantly, be able to entertain and keep their target audience glued to that channel!
Maximuzz and I ventured up north to Genting Highlands in 2005 to catch Stage 5 of Tour de Langkawi. That was when we were fortunate enough to have been introduced to Phil Liggett & Paul Sherwen, the Tour de France television commentators. Above (left to right) : Phil, Max, Merciless, Paul and Adele hanging out at a coffee joint, waiting for the cyclists to arrive at the top of Genting Highlands! That was also when I realised that everyone was in love with Koji Fukushima! That's a story for another blog!
To find out more about these gurus of Tour de France sports commentating, go to :- http://www.olntv.com/tdf/article/view/741/?ss=reports&tf=Body.tpl
Friday, July 21, 2006
C/o Alvin Lok
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it"
To Kill a Mockingbird
To understand what a mountain biking trail means to a mountain biker, I think it best to see it from the viewpoint of a mountain biker. I am a keen mountain biker who has been mountain biking for over 8 years, and have dedicated 5 years of my life as a volunteer for the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association (SACA).
I will try my best to tell it like it is, based on my experience thus far.
Biking is one of the top 5 sports in Singapore attracting more than 10,000 cyclists; I believe the numbers are growing by the minute. Cyclists who cycle on the roads either do so to commute, to get from point A to point B, as part of their training programme or for the pure enjoyment of cycling. Many "leisure cyclists" prefer congregating at the crowded East Coast and Pasir Ris Parks, or riding along park connectors. Anywhere which is relatively flat, concrete, not remotely close to the hazardous bike-unfriendly roads, you will find these bikers. These paths require very little off-road skills, albeit a decent amount of road savvyness.
The above just about describes the bikers that most of us are familiar with. Many people are not aware that there is more to cycling than meets the eye. There is a creature called the "Mountain Biker". They are generally nature lovers who bike so that they can be close to nature. They take the opportunity to socialise with other like-minded mountain bikers while on the trails. In the process, they get a good work-out bursting their lungs on the uphill, and then feel a sense of satisfaction in negotiating a challenging downhill! It makes them physically and mentally stronger, allows them to bond with other bikers, and promotes a healthy lifestyle!
Many mountain bikers start off on their BMX bikes from as young as 4 years old, and then pick up the sport later when they can afford to buy a mountain bike. We have kids as young as 4 years old joining our youth races! Some start out riding on the Tampines BMX and MTB trail - a good introductory trail to basic off-road cycling. Next, they will attempt Pulau Ubin - which offers a variety of off-road trails to suit beginner to advanced level bikers. As their skills improve, they are ready to take on Track 15 and Chestnut, and then eventually graduate to the mother of all MTB trails in Singapore - the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Mountain Biking Trail, touted to be Singapore's most technical trail. They will continue riding BT every weekend until they master it. So, what's next?
Many mountain bikers are content just riding these same trails for the rest of their lives. Some turn to other trails not sanctioned by the authorities. Others will no longer find these trails challenging and will venture to our neighbouring countries in search of new trails. Some will cross over to road cycling. Some will stop cycling completely. With the few mountain biking trails Singapore has to offer, one would naturally ask : is the sport of mountain biking dying? Well, statistics show that it is very much alive in Singapore!
A few hundred hardcore bikers have ventured into competitive mountain biking and most participate in the SACA races and races in the region. To compensate for the lack of mountain biking trails meeting worldwide competitive standards in Singapore, these bikers will look to regional trails to train and to compete. The Subaru Mountain Biking Championships held in Sentosa attacted 600 participants and 5000 participants over a weekend! That trail was touted to be even more difficult than BT, but unfortunately, part of it has been destroyed to make way for a more lucrative "luge" track! The up and coming sport of adventure racing, such as the Action Asia Challenge, will see more worldwide participants coming to Singapore to take on the multi-sport discipline. This sport will almost always include a mountain biking leg, and the usual biking venues will include the BT, Sentosa or Ubin trails.
It is amazing that our national athletes are able to remain competitive when their skills are pit against the region's best cyclists, given the limited trails on which to practice on; in particular, there are no "mountains" in Singapore. In order to be a world class cyclist, one needs to have the facilities to train on. Some countries rank their trails on a scale of 1 to 6, 6 being the most difficult. None of our trails even come close to reaching 6 or even 5 for that matter! Wouldn't it be great if we had a technical trail in our own backyard where our national atheletes could improve their bike handling skills? They could in turn pass on these skills to our youths who may wish to take on the challenge of winning honours for their school, their club, or maybe even in the long run, our country?
The bikers who have been assisting and consulting with NParks on the Kent Ridge trail are a passionate lot! They all have had extensive experience riding in overseas mountain biking tracks and are more than ready to share their knowledge and give back to Singapore in terms of trail creation! They have been busy gathering information, surfing the net, consulting with other trailbuilders such as IMBA on how best to create biking trails while taking all necessary anti-erosion and safety measures suited for our climate and weather conditions. And they all unanimously gave the KR trail three thumbs up!!! You can almost see the pride in their eyes and hear the lilt in their voices when they speak about the new KR MTB trail!
This infectious disease has spread to the mountain biking community of Singapore, who can't get enough of this new trail! Many are discovering their newfound biking skills, while others are summoning the courage to experience it! About 3 videos have been produced about this trail, the trail has been discussed ad nauseum in biking forums, and bikers are coming in droves to check out what this new trail has to offer!
So, what's my interest in the KR Trail? My fascination with trail creation and maintenance started off in Malaysia when I took part in a biking event at Bukit Kiara located just off KL City. To read more about how that trail was created, you may wish to go to :-http://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2005/11/evolution-of-biketrail.html
I then helped to organise the BT Trail Maintenance event 2 years ago, a community project run by mountain bikers! It gave bikers a sense of ownership in the trails on which they ride on, while understanding that a trail is only worth riding on if maintained properly.
I have also been attending the Penang Mountain Bike Jamboree held in Penang since 2002. It is an annual event organised by a Penang bike group where the Penangites get to boast about their awesome mountain biking trails ...and their food! The ride includes a food and heritage ride on a Saturday, followed by a super challenging ride on Sunday! This ride originally attracted 270 participants, and has grown to over 500 bikers from all over Malaysia and even Singapore! It is easily one of the biggest events held in Penang, supported by the government!
To find out more, you may wish to visit these urls :-http://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2005/12/penang-jamboree-2002-1-hill-ride.htmlhttp://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2005/12/penang-jamboree-2003-expect-unexpected.htmlhttp://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2006/01/penang-jamboree-2004-see-u-dare.htmlhttp://lingthemerciless.blogspot.com/2006/01/penang-jamboree-2005-ready-for-more_23.html
I thought to myself : wouldn't it be great if we could organise our very own Singapore MTB Jamboree? Then I thought about the mountain biking trails that we had to offer and decided that the only way we are able to make this work is to create more challenging trails and string all the existing trails together (even the ones which are off-limits to bikers) so that it would be worth the while of overseas bikers to come to Singapore for this event!
Now that we have a new KR MTB trail, I could proudly tell my fellow Malaysian riders that we have a reason to entice them to cross the border to ride in Singapore for a change! I would also advise our local bikers to hone their technical skills at this new trail so that they can at least remain competitive with our friends in the region!
And I am able to do so because NParks has made this happen by giving us another trail that we can be proud of! On behalf of all mountain bikers that I know, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
I will end off with a quote from a famous bike visionary :-
"I live for the moments when the bike just blots itself out, and every little element is singing the same note - me, the bike, the trail, the sky, the dirt. Yes, yes, yes.
Maybe what I'm trying to say is this : ride more.
Get on a bike.
Fall off a bike.
Leave something of yourself in it.
Does a bike have a soul? Only if you do."
I say, does a mountain biker have a soul? Only if a good trail is in the equation!
Avid Mountain Biker (hopefully with a soul)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Thankfully, their youth and innocence were captured in 2 home videos which I made just for laughs. I knew I could count on the Eramanis for a hilariously good time!
Shelley's Weirdos Part 1
Shelley's Weirdos Part 2
Monday, July 10, 2006
On Sat 8 July, I meet Chi at the entrance to the Kent Ridge MTB Trail to help out with trailbuilding. The task for the morning : building wooden bridges. Sounds simple enough.
We watched Alvin construct the first sample using strips of chengai wood nailed onto bakau wood poles at both ends. It kinda looks like a horizontal ladder for little elves! Alvin then picks up a funky leaf blower and disappears into the green and beyond.
And that was when corn started falling from the sky!
We start hammering nails into the chengai wood. It started off fine, but then those stubborn nails just wouldn't go in 50% of the time! Arghhhhh!!! After much trial and error, we could finally gauge what's the best position to place the nail and the rhythm in which to hammer it in so the nail remains erect!
Chi : "Now you're getting the hang of things!" (as I successfully hammer the nails into the chengai wood one by one)
Ling : "Yeah, rhythm method's the best!"
Chi can't believe his ears!
Chi : (after hitting nail in which becomes bent = no good) "Oh no, pull it out! Now!"
Ling can't believe her ears! But due to exhaustion from all the hammering, she leaves the nail hanging til she's done with her own nailjob.
Ling : "Do you notice that everytime we drive a nail through the chenghai wood, some yellow juice oozes out? Hmm..."
Chi's phone rings and he talks to someone over the phone and hangs up.
Ling : "Who's that?"
Chi : "Oh it's Max! He's coming!"
Max finally arrives and asks : "Where's Alvin?"
Ling : "Alvin's gone into the jungle for a blowjob!"
Chi : "Wah liao eh!"
Ling : "Why not, since we're on the roll here! Haha!"
Later on, some other bikers showed up to help mark the trail for the next day's jamboree ride.
Ling : "Alvin was remarking that there are cobras in the jungle, but like most other snakes, so long as you don't harm them, they won't harm you."
Alano : "Did you know that mongoose will actually take on cobras?"
And we continue talking cock.
During the ride, Alano spies something black close to the portion of the trail called the Snake (i.e. the S-bend).
Alano : "I saw a snake in the trail!"
Nik : "Yeah, did you go down the Snake [i.e. the portion of the trail called "the Snake"]?"
Alan : "No, I meant a REAL snake! It was a black cobra, the length of my bike and this thick [using the profile of his hand to form a big ass "C"] ! Shucks, I should have ridden my mongoose!"
Blah! Roll eyes!
And I wouldn't even attempt to repeat what Ming, the King of Korn was bantering about the whole afternoon! :P
It's fun to veg out with your friends when corn's on the menu! Hee hee!
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Monday, July 03, 2006
Ah, frailty, thy name is soccer player....especially the English ones who tend to tear a lot!
Many soccer fans I know beg to differ, arguing that most of these players are overrated and grossly overpaid blokes who only train with their teammates a few months leading up to the big international event! Otherwise, most of the big names are busy making a living playing in the league games...and gettin' paid for them!
I've actually watched the Germans play live in the last FIFA World Cup held on 21 June 2002! I was in Korea for a working trip and told me MD, "hey, if you don't need me after this meeting, I'm outta here! Gotta get meself a ticket to the Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, pronto."
Needless to say, I was headed for the Germany vs USA game, which saw Germany's defeat over the USA 1-0 - which was also their ticket to advance to the semi-finals. I wasn't a big German or USA fan, but just wanted for once in my lifetime to attend a World Cup game live, and this was my big chance!
Our Korean clients were pleased that I showed such interest in soccer in their homeland, and assisted me in finding my "black market" ticket in the last hour! Couldn't remember how much they were, but I knew they definitely weren't cheap!!! Was it worth it? Every KWon of it!
Given my pathetic knowledge about the who's who in the soccer fraternity (shocking for an avid soccer player), the only German players that I kinda knew were Michael Ballack, who celebrated his 39th minute goal, and the German captain and keeper Oliver Kahn! Didn't even know the US were such strong opponents, even though I believe soccer is a game which most American junior and high school students play before they migrate to more lucrative sports like American Football, baseball etc. etc.
Anywayz, I checked out of the hotel, lugged my Samsonite suitcase with me, hopped onto the local bus, which took me from Seoul to Ulsan. I was going to catch the next bus or train back the next morning after the game to catch the early morning flight back to Singapore.
On the bus, I realised there was a group of Korean men who were travelling together. No prizes for guessing that they were headed for the soccer game in Ulsan! I tried chatting with the gentleman who sat next to me in broken English. He later introduced himself as a professor. Oh, educated one! Another spoke good American English, so I started chatting with he who later became the translator. I was told they were colleagues working at a finance company. And I left it at that. In the photo above, that's me with the Professiore on my right, and the English-expert on my left.
Being in a foreign country, where two other foreign countries are playing, I guess it just didn't have that "kick" as opposed to if I had been there when the hometeam from South Korea was playing against a foreign team. But the supportive US and German fans made up for it....all those fancy costumes, face painting and country flags! Brilliant! Would I have painted my face with the Singaporean flag if it were Singapore playing xxx? Lemme revisit that question if it happens! :P
My new Korean friends kept asking me where I was sitting, if they could help me carry my suitcase, where I was from, what I was doing there all by meself etc....and I thought, "hey, what a buncha caring folk!" When we entered the stadium, I realised they knew many of the security guards who were on duty. I asked where they were seated, and they couldn't tell me, so I made my way to my seat and waited for the game to start.
Lo and behold, the Korean contingent appeared and took their seats next to me! "What a coincidence", I thought to meself. But I was glad to see familiar faces.
The game was all that I'd expected! It was a blast! Just wished that I had my soccer friends with me for the ultimate experience! Part of the enjoyment of watching sports for me is to enjoy the moment with those who share the same passion for the sport. Well, these Korean folk who have been kind made up for it!
I took the same train back to Seoul with one of the Korean dudes. That was when he disclosed to me that he and his friends were from "internal security" and that attending the game was just part of their duty! And my fellow busmate was a professor of "criminology", who was probably psycho-analyzing me and wondering what the heck was a single Singaporean girl doing going to watch a soccer game all by herself, with that suspicious looking bag! Hmmm.....
Apparently, the South Koreans decided to upgrade their security arrangements for the 2002 World Cup following September 11th. "International terrorists may use the world’s biggest festival as an opportunity for committing terror to make demands and achieve their goals," a KOWOC spokesperson said.
The new measures were to include no-fly zones over its stadia, increased monitoring of the coastline, beefed-up security at industrial facilities and airports, reinforced cooperation with American, British and Japanese intelligence, as well as the banning of known or suspected terrorists. It was reported that security will also be stepped up inside and outside all World Cup venues with the deployment of special anti-terrorist squads!
I never found out whether I was on their list of "suspicious characters" but hey, at least I can say I've rubbed shoulders with Korean internal security while watching one of the greatest competitions on earth live! I didn't see any of the Germans or Americans cry though from where I was sitting! Perhaps the Samsung LCD screen advert really does speak the truth! Stay home, and you won't miss a thing on TV!