Singapore Strongman: From One Tyre to Three Hundred Titans: SG Titans

Thursday, September 25, 2014 Singapore Sports Stories 1 Comments


It is a serene Sunday evening in Woodlands, the megacourt is anything but. Apart from the usual buzz from basketball boys and frenzy from football aficionados, a group of 20 odd men are gathered. One is slamming a hammer on a tractor tyre while another is flipping a similar tyre; one is lifting a steel frame loaded with weights while another is dragging a steel sled loaded with men. Strength is in session.

Implements belonging to Singapore Strongman group, SG Titans
Implements: The sport uses implements such as tyres, hammers, sleds, and nylon ropes. SG Titans keeps these in a nearby storeroom. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
They are SG Titans, a strongman community in Singapore, and they are training using implements. The sport, strongman, first started in 1977 in Califonia, United States. Whereas weightlifters lift anthropometrically designed barbells and dumbbells, strongmen lift, pull, or even toss implements such as tyres, logs, kegs, cars, trucks, and even planes.

Here in the megacourt, 39-year-old Goh Yeow Hui, or Ah Hui, as he is called by the titans, is strutting around the court, overseeing the training. He is coach as well as founding member of SG Titans. In 2008, all he had was a few “gym buddies” and one tyre. Today, he is one of over 300 members of SG Titans which now has a fair variety of implements. “When the numbers started to grow, we felt that there was a need to form a small community,” said Ah Hui.

Back then, Ah Hui and his friends were training at Marsling industrial carpark working with what they had, a single tractor tyre. “It is a quiet place but that time we didn’t have any storeroom, we just placed our tyre at a lamppost,” said Ah Hui. Leaving it there got them a warning from the authorities and the tyre had to roll out. 

The next stop was Woodlands stadium where it was secretly stored with the help of a clandestine staff. Alas, the management found out and the tyre seemed destined for the dumpster. “Not said desperate lah, but I don’t want to lose this tyre, throwing it away is like a waste,” Ah Hui said. He enlisted the help of a friend who assisted in proposing strongman as a means of active living in the community to Marsling Community Sports Club (CSC) – SG Titans allows the public to join the sessions for free. It resonated with the CSC and they provided SG Titans with a storage space at a HDB block where the tyre would call home.

Members of Singapore Strongman group, SG Titans, performing the farmer's walk
Farmer's Walk: Not all members are big built. Some members are of smaller built but the intensity towards training remains the same. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
Today, the tyre still gets flipped and thumped by hammers but it is accompanied by other implements, some custom-made. The 300 registered members are a mix of seasoned strongman and those new to the sport. Satyaraj, 25, has picked up the sport for about a year. “It is something you don’t do every day, something you don’t do in the gym or outside…on your own you cannot do this. You can only try to imitate the movement in the gym,” he said, panting from the tyre flips he just did. They were doing a circuit program that Ah Hui devised in which they had to clock in a number of repetitions for each station before moving on to the next one.

Members of Singapore Strongman group, SG Titans, performing the tyre flip
Tackling Tyres: The tyre weighs over a hundred kilograms. The tyre flip is a common event in a strongman competition; Singapore's HomeTeamNS Strongman Challenge often uses the tyre flip as one of their events. Photo Singapore Sports Stories
Ahmad Taufiq Muhammad, who has represented Singapore internationally in strongman, grimaced and grunted as he pulled a sled with two chuckling strongman who seemed to have enjoyed the ride. “Currently, SG Titans has everything, if we were to run a competition, we can run it here,” said Taufiq, a SG Titans executive committee member. The current state is a far cry from the days in Marsling industrial carpark.

Members of Singapore Strongman group, SG Titans, performing sled pull
Sled Pull: The exercise simulates a common competition event, the vehicle pull. There are no wheels on the sled, the strongman have to not only pull the weight of two men, but also fight friction. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
Trainings are usually held twice a week without any pre-planned programmes or regimental regimes. Ah Hui said he has got the “blueprint” in his head. As the Sunday sky darkens and the floodlights begin illuminating the court, the strongmen are still at it. They do not know when the training ends or how it will end. “Sometimes it’s random, I surprise them,” said Ah Hui. The spontaneity seems to work; four out of ten finalists for the recent HomeTeamNS Strongman Challenge 2014 were coached by Ah Hui.
Members of Singapore Strongman group, SG Titans, taking a break
Rest: The members rest on the sides during training to recover and rehydrate. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
It is a draining sport, where strength is slowly sapped, slowing one down. “Eh, you are making a girl wait for you to finish the exercise.” Ah Hui said with a raised voice. On this Sunday, 26-year-old April Kong Min Qi is the sole strongwoman among the men. “Every once in a while, when I am free, I will come and train,” said April. The arts undergraduate is matching whatever the strongmen are doing; farmer’s walking the same weight, deadlifting the same weight and flipping the same huge tyre. She picked up the sport this year and finished second in the first Singapore Strongman Classic 2014 in July. “Besides the fact that you are a girl and can lift heavy, it (strongman) pushes me to be more focused,” she said.

Focus is something Ah Hui values. “There are times when I am quite soft and I can crack jokes with them, there are times when I put my hammer down or whatever so that they don’t get slack,” said Ah Hui. Member, Mohamad Zaki, 19, a Nanyang polytechnic student, said: “(Ah Hui is) fierce in terms of training…in training he has to be fierce, the fierceness helps us to change our mind-set, focus more.”

Goh Yeow Hui is one of the founding members of Singapore Strongman group, SG Titans
Coach: Coaching is not Ah Hui's job, he works as a fishmonger through the night but his passion for the sport and desire to help others through it, drive him to take on the role. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
As 10 p.m draws near, Ah Hui signals to pack up. The grunts and shouts begin to ebb, making way for casual chatter. They can relax now. With satisfied smiles and cheeky chortles, the dirt-stained strongmen know that training is over. They will roll the defining tyre not to a nearby lamppost but to its well-equipped home under the HDB.

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