5 Minutes with Glocal Fitness Maverick Professional Triathlon and Multi-sport Coach Arthur Tong

Published - 30 November 2021, Tuesday

Welcome to our continuing series Glocal Fitness Mavericks, where we get up close and personal with some of the industry’s shining stars responsible for the ongoing transformation of the Health & Fitness Industry across Asia.

Join Dr. Alan Cheung of International Orthopaedic Clinic in Singapore as he goes in for a no-holds-barred discussion with Arthur Tong, Professional Triathlon and Multi-sport Coach at Elevate Performance Coaching, based in Singapore.

We were interested in hearing Arthur's recapitulate highlights of his journey so far, and his backstory in connection to what led him towards taking on professional coaching and the redirection in his career. Furthermore, given this man stands out as celebrated fitness icon, Arthur graces us with the time to indulge our team’s awareness and knowledge of his role and associations with the wellness and fitness industry.

Prior to coaching professionally, Arthur’s interesting background features his posting as an Army Officer with the Singapore Armed Forces for 13 years – a period of his life which he pinpoints as a cultivation nest for developing a deepened passion for serving, coaching, and helping others.

Another shaping life engagement which Arthur has a great deal of experience in, is competitive swimming. Partaking of this water sport all throughout his childhood and adulthood, Arthur has impressively completed multiple IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN distance races across the world.

Arthur Tong

As an athlete – his most favourite features are the challenge and camaraderie of the sport. As a coach – his enjoyment lies in the technicality and humanised aspects of the coaching profession. Arthur goes on to mention his personal love for coaching lies in the perceived combination of fusing art and science together. How he puts it across; “Coaching is about seeing the unique potential in someone and being able to teach and push them just the right amount, with keen attentiveness to their own individuality.”

In living out a coaching career, Arthur often finds himself wearing many hats – especially that of a leader, motivator, teacher, psychologist, and cheerleader. Professional coaching in the 21st century, does call for a great deal of multi-tasking and role-playing. Therefore, coaches must be prepared to rise to this expectation whole-heartedly and responsibly – by understanding the value of open-mindedness, flexibility, and resilient determination towards reaching set goals.

Arthur prides himself in helping a diverse group of athletes, including IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and IRONMAN Kona World Championship (qualifying triathletes), Singapore National Para-Swimmers, age-group triathletes, and runners, and last but in no way least – assisting People who are Differently-abled or have Special Needs to realise their own athletic dreams and redefine their set of limitations despite obstacles faced and carried.

Arthur Tong​​​​​​​

This brings us to a point in the meet where we inquire from Arthur as to what he personally deems are essential qualities for achieving and staying successful in the role of a Multi-Sport Coach. He breaks it down by expounding on two centric pillars as follows:

  • Knowledge, Experience & Credentials – Triathlon can be quite technical, because it requires you to excel in three sports, execute it all together seamlessly in a single event, and race through it as fast as one physically can. To be a good coach, Arthur’s invested both time and money in his education and race experience to hone his technical knowledge and coaching ability. He acknowledges that having a good understanding of physiology and biomechanics, training program design, and sport psychology – forms the foundation of the profession. For instance, “As a swimmer, brute force doesn’t always translate to forward movement while a streamlined body position, balance and good stroke mechanics does! If you then consider the physical demand required for an Ironman triathlon, for example (the event comprises of a 3.8km swim, 180km bicycle ride, and a 42km run) – being able to absorb the huge amount of training volume without getting injured, ensuring good pacing and fueling strategy – are integral to the success within the sport.” As a coach, Arthur determinedly keeps himself current and updated with the latest sport science, technology, and coaching methodologies – purposed to provide his athletes with the best possibly enhanced training solutions. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • Communication and Rapport – In order for Arthur to develop a tailored training plan, intended to help his athletes reach their fullest potential – good communication is intrinsic towards helping him understand their personal athletic goals, strengths and weaknesses, and training limitations. In his own coaching career, Arthur’s had the amazing privilege of helping a wide range of athletes – from everyday age groupers (who carry a goal to cross the finishing line of an Ironman, athletes with special needs competing at local and international sporting events) to high performance athletes (wanting to podium at their next race). Being equipped with various methods of giving instructions with a strong respect for individual communication types and forms and building a personal rapport with each athlete – allows him to successfully coach athletes of all types.

Wrapping up our time with Arthur, he fondly relays to our team what he considers to be his most noteworthy professional achievement; “As an athlete and coach, this would definitely be the wonderful opportunity I gained in coaching Ryan, an autistic teenager – and lending personal assistance and support towards his first-time completion of a triathlon in 2019. We were the first autistic and guide duo to have achieved this together in Singapore!”

The event was incredibly special, and very meaningful to Arthur for two reasons.

  1. It offered proof that anyone could complete a triathlon.
  2. His coaching ability was truly challenged through training and competing for this event.

He expounds on a related instance; “Ryan was a great swimmer in the pool but had a bad habit of sinking to the bottom of the pool to touch the floor with his feet whenever he felt tired. To reverse this habit, especially when he was in the ocean, we worked really hard on our pacing strategy and ensured we were in a calm and focused frame of mind before heading out to the ocean.”

“When we finally crossed the finishing line of the race – after training together for 3 years, and then 3 months specifically for the 2019 triathlon event – I felt an immense sense of satisfaction in completing a triathlon, but simultaneously I felt a great deal of pride as a coach to have made this experience possible for Ryan.”

What an impactful and transforming experience to have observed and witnessed in person! Hearing the recount made us wish we could have been there at the time of the event, to lend some contagious cheer and encouragement for both Ryan and Arthur! What a memorable achievement to value and remark upon – and it’s a solid one to stand out on Arthur’s hallmarks of fame as a coach –amongst the many great and meaningful achievements we foresee continue to come his way!​​​​​​​

About Dr Alan Cheung of International Orthopaedic Clinic

A keen athlete, Dr. Alan Cheung Orthopaedic Surgeon and Director at International Orthopaedic Clinic trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts.

Says Dr Cheung, “As a sportsman who has played a variety of sports and recovered from bilateral shoulder dislocations, and various knee and ankle injuries, I can understand where my patients are coming from. This helps me empathise and build trust, and I can discuss injury management and recovery in an intelligent way.”

He regularly competes in BJJ and has won gold in tournaments in Singapore and Japan. When he’s not practicing martial arts, Dr Cheung enjoys golf, cycling and skiing. 

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