Learning > Inspiration

When age is just a number: Singapore's oldest skydiver

Benson Ang on 02 Feb 2020

The Straits Times


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To celebrate turning 95 later this year, Mr Tan Kok Sing will be jumping out of a plane in Perth.


It will not be the first time he skydives, though.


The age-defying Mr Tan, known as Singapore's oldest skydiver, has already parachuted from a plane four times - in 1996 and 2006 in Cairns, Australia; in 2014 in New Zealand's southern island; and most recently in 2015 when he leapt from a height of 4,260m in Wollongong, Australia, to celebrate his 90th birthday.


Each time, he was linked to a tandem instructor, who opened a parachute after about a minute of free-falling.


Drawn to the thrill of the plunge and being surrounded by beautiful scenery, the retired director of an import-export firm says in Mandarin: "When I jump, it is so thrilling. The air pushes onto my face and body. I love the experience and never get sick of it."


The father of two is also a grandfather of four and a great-grandfather of one.


Dismissing the risks associated with free-falling, he adds: "To me, skydiving is as safe as crossing the road. In both situations, an accident can happen. We all have fears, but instead of running from them, I think we should face and overcome them.


"My body is old. But I know my heart can still take it. I just went for a health check-up last month and I am okay."


His jump in 1996 was his first brush with extreme sports. In the 1990s, he also went white-water rafting with his family twice in Australia and New Zealand.


Back home, he is the poster child for active ageing. When he was in his 50s, he founded the Tiong Bahru Garden Joggers club, which is now a recreational running club that also organises basketball games.


While an old knee injury keeps Mr Tan from playing basketball, he goes on daily walks and exercises at home by doing sit-ups and using dumbbells.


A health scare at age 35 was what motivated him to stay active. Then, he had rheumatism in both knees, but his condition improved after he picked up jogging.


"From that time on, I knew I wanted to keep moving," he says. "If I stop, I know I will fall sick."


Not even a stroke in 2009, which paralysed the right side of his body for some time, could stop him.


In September 2017, a fall fractured his left kneecap, which required an operation. Again, that did not keep him down.


Mr Tan, who takes medication to manage his cholesterol levels, says: "I know my body is deteriorating, but I will be as active as I can. To me, every day is a gift.


"If it is possible, I want to live to 100. And when I reach that age, I will also want to skydive again to celebrate."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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