This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of BEAM, the official magazine for the British Association of Singapore. We have reproduced it for the information of those of you who missed it when it was published.
The BEAM Meets… Dr Ansgar Cheng, Prosthodontist and medal winning athlete (By Julie Dickenson)
When Dr Ansgar Cheng decided it was time to get into better physical shape, he started running. But what followed next was not just a story of improved fitness. Dr Cheng, a Dental Specialist in Prosthodontics at Specialist Dental Group, started competing once again and his achievements have grown with his enthusiasm for the sport.
His running success was witnessed by hundreds of spectators last October when he represented Singapore at the World Masters Athletic Championship in Perth, Australia in the 5000m race for 50-54 years olds, finishing 11th. He has also competed in the 19th Asia Masters Athletics Championship where he won gold and bronze medals.
Q: What made you decide to get fitter and why did you choose athletics?
In 1996, my wife and I were living in Toronto, I was 30 years old and starting my professional career as a dentist and she was a law school student. We hardly had time to cook so we ate out a lot. One night, I came home and took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror and realised I was out of shape. I was becoming breathless going up and down stairs and just by walking around the hospital so I decided I had to change.
I had grown up as a runner in my Hong Kong high school so it seemed natural for me to do something I was familiar with. I knew the technicalities of the sport and, best of all, it is cheap! I didn’t need a membership, I didn’t need a training partner and I didn’t need a gym. All that I did need was a pair of running shoes and I had a couple of pairs lying around.
Q: Are you an all rounder in track and field sports?
I’m only good at longer distance running – I learnt my limitations as a small boy. I realised I couldn’t dribble a basketball as well as my classmates and I couldn’t run with a football as well. But I realised I could run around them a lot – without a ball. So I figured, running was a sport that I had a better chance of excelling in.
Q: Have you changed your diet drastically and did this help your sporting achievements?
Since 1996, I started to learn to read food labels. I stay away from high fat food and in general unhealthy food. After changing my diet, I started getting generally healthier. My blood pressure, weight, cholesterol level, blood sugar all went down and my family doctor is now happier with me during my annual check-up!
Q: Can we talk about how much weight you have lost?
To be honest, at the time when I was at my heaviest, I didn’t dare weigh myself. When I started to lose weight, my trousers got looser and looser, and I had to get smaller sizes. Now I am down to about 57kg.
Q: Is it hard keeping a balance between work, family and sporting interests?
Sporting interests per se is not a problem, but time management is a challenge. The reason being that running takes a few hours a week and you have to find time to get the job done. The key to finding time is focus and discipline. Discipline to wake up at a certain time in the morning to run, plus having the discipline to go to bed earlier at night. This means cutting out a lot of unproductive habits such as TV and social media time.
I don’t run every day, as I need a break for my bones and joints, but when I do, I usually run along Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road.
Q: A little about your background please and your job as a prosthodontics specialist.
As a 51 year old prosthodontist based at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, I restore and replace missing teeth, enhance smiles and enable people to regain their normal lifestyle in terms of their eating, speaking and social functions. I am into dental implants and reconstructive dentistry, sometimes even reconstructing the whole face. I simply call it extreme dentistry.
When I am not working or running, I live with my wife, Moonlake Lee who is a full time “coach” to our kids Alisa,13, and Hana, 12, at home.
Q: How did you start competitive running?
At secondary school I got drafted into the cross-country team as an “understudy”. However, at first I didn’t do that well. One day I turned up at a training session and found I was all alone! The team had headed off to the interschool event with out telling me. I didn’t feel good about it but it made me more determined to work a little harder.
Q: Do you enjoy your work as much as your athletics?
They are different animals – work in a way is my value to mankind, while athletics is totally self -serving. It is hard and impossible to choose one but not the other. I am very greedy, I would like to have both because they should join at the hip and that forms the soul of me.
Q: Do you harbour any future sporting goals?
I’ll be working hard for a few more marathon runs and probably I will take part in the next World Masters Athletic Championship, which is happening a year from now, in Spain. Stay tuned.
Q: Finally any advice to other people who may wish to take up a sport later in life?
Choose a sport that you love so that it doesn’t feel laborious. Choose something that you can interact with others so that you will never feel lonely and you will have support when things get tough. The sport chosen should be physically and mentally challenging enough (not too easy) – otherwise, video games would be considered a sport as well.
© The BEAM (June 2017). The Official Magazine for the British Association of Singapore.