$100,000 boost for Mok
AirAsia signs three-year agreement with Singapore's marathon gold medallist
From a chance meeting between two like-minded individuals to a six-figure sponsorship deal.
Mok Ying Ren's aim to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics received a boost yesterday when AirAsia announced a three-year sponsorship of Singapore's top marathoner worth $100,000.
The deal will mostly cover Mok's flights when he goes overseas to train and compete, as he looks to become the first Singaporean marathoner to compete at an Olympic Games.
Speaking at a press conference held at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) running track yesterday, Mok, who won gold at the Myanmar South-east Asia (SEA) Games last year, said the deal came about after he met Azran Osman Rani - the chief executive of AirAsia X, the medium and long-haul operation of AirAsia - at the Gold Coast Marathon last July through a mutual friend.
Azran, who himself runs marathons and takes part in Ironman triathlon competitions as well as Ultimate Frisbee events, was open to the idea of AirAsia striking up a partnership with Mok and this eventually led to the deal announced yesterday.
Mok was obviously delighted to be backed by the Malaysian carrier.
Said the 25-year-old: "I really like their tagline "Dream the Impossible."
Mok hopes his tie-up with AirAsia will spur more companies to support local sporting talent.
"This (sponsorship) a big step forward for sports in Singapore," he said.
"What we want is more companies to come in and support our athletes, because a big number of our national athletes are still studying.
"Hopefully, with AirAsia coming forward, more companies will do the same and support our athletes in their endeavours."
This is Mok's single biggest sponsorship deal.
AirAsia currently backs Malaysian squash player Low Wee Wern and Moto GP rider Zulfahmi Khairrudin.
Said AirAsia Singapore chief executive, Logan Velaitham: "The values he (Mok) has are the same ones we preach.
"With his attitude, we know he will go far. So why can't we be a part of his dream and his journey?
"He worked hard to get where he is. It's a lot like how AirAsia started with just two planes."
Mok completed his three-month medical officer conversion course last month as part of his National Service (NS) commitment.
He is now posted in-camp at the HQ Army Medical Services at Nee Soon Camp, where he says his daily schedule is flexible enough to allow him to train every day by running along the Upper Thomson and Mandai area.
Mok aims to defend his gold on home soil at the 2015 SEA Games next June and then qualify for Rio in the first half of 2016.
He admits, though, that his unexpected nomination two months ago for this year's Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Glasgow from July 23 to Aug 3, has thrown a spanner into his training plan.
While his gold-winning time of 2hr 28min 35sec in Myanmar last year did not meet the Games' qualifying standard (2:20:19), it was still enough to convince national selectors to give him a ticket.
Said Mok: "To be honest, I didn't plan to run any marathons this year.
"I planned to compete in half-marathons or 5km and 10km runs, then run really well next year so I qualify for the SEA Games with a good time.
"Now, if I go to the Commonwealth Games, I don't want to go there and do a half-baked job. So I'll have to re-think my plans a bit.
"Running a marathon takes a lot out of you. It's not like a 5km or 10km run, where if you don't clock a good time you can just run again the following week."