Cheers for 86-year-old triathlete, Yee Sze Mun, ahead of his final race

Where do you see yourself when you are in your 80s?

For ‘Uncle’ Yee Sze Mun (main image), it is downing an ice-cold beer at the finish line of today’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in Langkawi.

The ‘70.3’ refers to the total distance in miles (or 113km) covered in the race, consisting of a 1.2-mile (1.9km) swim, a 56-mile (90km) bike ride, and a 13.1-mile (21.1km) run.

The 86-year-old triathlete is the oldest competitor in this year’s event, the 13th time he will take on the challenge on the holiday island in the northern Malaysian state of Kedah.

It will be Yee’s final attempt, but he promises to return next year to support the other triathletes.

“I have been competing in this event since the inaugural competition, in 2000,” said Yee, who has completed 16 full Ironman races (double the distance of the 70.3), including six, in its ancestral home of Hawaii.

“I took a break when I was 80. I am writing my second book and thought this race would be a great closing chapter.

“No matter how long it will take me, I am confident of completing the course.”

Asked what he wanted to do after his final race, quick as a flash, Yee replied: “Down an ice-cold beer, or two!”

Yee, who is 157cm tall and weighs 45kg, competed in over 100 triathlons, starting when he was 58.

“I was forced into physical activities after my first medical check-up when I was 48. The doctor warned me that I needed to change my lifestyle, or I might have an early end,” recalled Yee.

“I started going to the gym. Ten years later, I saw an Ironman race on television. I thought, ‘If they can do it, why not me?’

“My wife encouraged me to train for it as it meant she did not have to see my grumpy face,” he joked.

“The workouts actually made me a happier man. My wife agrees!”

He started entering competitions and only competed against himself. He is not bothered about winning titles – but has won quite a few races – and said challenging himself is how he got better as he aged.

Yee said his longest solo bicycle ride was six years ago when he completed 234km in 9’01 minutes.

“I love my Sundays as I can cycle alone. When I was 80, I completed my longest ride,” said the former businessman.

Asked how he felt during a competition, Yee said: “I focus on the fun, especially the last stage of the marathon. It may be a competition, but I have no ego – I leave it in the hotel room.

“My aim is to go the distance.”

Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he added: “My fun also comes from passing younger athletes who panic when they see this 86-year-old grandpa going past them!”

Yee admitted he had not had much training for this year’s event, but was confident of going out with a bang.

“Exercise keeps me alive. I do not know what tomorrow brings, but as I sit here today, I know I can do many things, including completing this course,” said Yee.

“After the race, I will be a free man. I will be able to eat what I want, when I want.

“No more strict training. I will still exercise, but no more Ironman for me.

“It will be great to end my career in Langkawi,” he added.

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