THE bicycle, more often than not, is a popular means of transport or recreation but for Ng Joo Pong it was his life.
The former national cyclist picked up the sport as a 12-year-old and his first bicycle "was nothing compared to the ones you see these days."
"My first bike was an iron scrap but six months after that I got a racing bike which cost RM270," said the Kuala Lumpur-born Joo Pong.
"And I just wanted to be on the bike. Even during school hours, I would be thinking about my bike, it's all I wanted to do."
Joo Pong was soon riding in local competitions and soon started competing in the Malaya Open Championships, Asian Cycling Championships, Bangkok Asian Games and Tokyo and Mexico Olympics.
An impressive resume for someone who started out challenging neighbours to race and then getting younger brother, Joo Ngan, roped in as well.
|Ng Joo Pong riding in the Cheras Velodrome. Pic: KHALID REDZA|
"I got my first taste of victory in the 1963 Malaya Open Championships. I won the 1km time trial and was second in the 5km time trial," Joo Pong said with a touch of pride.
Incidentally, in the 5-km time trial, he came in second to close friend Rosli Abdul Kader.
"Rosli and I are still the best of friends. We used to train together along Jalan Duta before competitions and he used to show me a thing or two about road racing."
Joo Pong's passion for cycling was so strong that even a freak accident with a lorry during training couldn't stop him from winning a Gold Leaf-sponsored race in 1968.
"I used to break records those days but I also broke my jaw and lost a couple of teeth after the accident in Batu Tiga with the lorry," added Joo Pong showing the gaps where his teeth once were.
"But I won that race which I remember very well."
Today, the 63-year-old Joo Pong, who lives with his wife and his son in Shah Alam, sells lorries for a living and is a part-time taxi driver.
"My love for cycling is still strong. I still train with the bike or swim at least an hour a day," added Joo Pong, who also had operations to both his knees and suffered a stroke in 1990.
The National Athletes' Charity Foundation's (Yakeb) 1Ringgit 1Malaysia campaign was launched to assist former athletes like Joo Pong with their medical needs.
Yakeb is offering two coverage plans -- for former athletes below the age of 69 and for those above 70.
Donations and sponsorship should be channeled to Yayasan Kebajikan Atlet Kebangsaan -- Tabung Yakeb, Maybank Account No: 564847005696 or SMS YAKEB1 to donate RM1, YAKEB2 for RM2, YAKEB5 for RM5 and YAKEB10 for RM10 and send to 33898. Each SMS costs 50 sen.
For enquiries, contact 03-89964841/4844 or visit www.yakeb.org.my.
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