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Following in daddy’s footsteps
People & Society Articles

Following in daddy’s footsteps

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Seah Kwang Peng, 40, and his 9-year-old daughter Isabelle, have weekly runs at the Kallang Practice Track.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree – quite true, in the case of Seah Kwang Peng and his eldest daughter, Isabelle.

As a teenager, Kwang Peng was a competitive runner.

At Deyi Secondary School, when he was in Secondary Two, he emerged as the overall champion at his school’s annual sports day – an award given to the student athlete who won the most number of medals. Among his medals was a Gold he won for the 400m event, which was his specialty.

In Secondary Four, he was part of the champion team at the 4x100m relay event at the national inter-school track and field competition. In junior college, he became captain of the track and field team, but admitted that he grew tired of the sport.

“I was burnt out. I reached my peak at Secondary Four, and did not hit my personal best anymore,” said the father of three.

He later developed an interest in news photography, and pursued a career as a photojournalist instead, trading his running shoes for a camera.

But today, the 40-year-old is returning to his first passion – running. The motivation: his 9-year-old daughter Isabelle, who has inherited his sporty streak and is also a budding competitive runner.

It runs in the family

Once a week, the father-daughter pair can be spotted at Kallang Practice Track. Isabelle is there to join the ActiveSG Athletics Club, and practises sprints, long distance running and jumps from 6.30pm to 8pm. During this time, Kwang Peng also hits the tracks to run.

The two compete together at events organised by ActiveSG, such as a parent-child 30m relay race, which they won last year (2017). It was Isabelle’s first medal.

Getting his daughter involved in running was not entirely deliberate. She was piqued by his medals.

“Growing up, she would ask about the running medals I have at home, and was curious about it,” he shared. “I think that was how she got interested in running.”

Emphasising outdoor education is part of Kwang Peng’s philosophy. “I always wanted my kids to be sporty. I will be a little disappointed if they are not,” Kwang Peng said with a laugh.

“I want them to be exposed to the healthy pressures of competition, how to start again the next day after defeat and how to use our mind to push ourselves when our body tells us that we can’t. These are things that we may not be exposed to in a classroom.”  

He also takes his children out for outdoor activities at least twice a week, such as to the playground or out cycling. Isabelle, for instance, learnt to ride a bicycle when she was five, and also scaled and conquered the monkey bars at six.

Kwang Peng’s two younger sons are four years old and eight months old. His four-year-old son, Lucas, has already learnt how to cycle. “Faster than Isabelle,” Kwang Peng quipped.

“I wanted them to try as many things as possible,” he said about his parenting style. “We don’t tell them that they must learn this or that. We tell them, ‘Go take a look, attend the trial class, and see if you like it.’ Then we encourage them to make their own choice if they want it or not. But we tell them that once you start it, you shouldn’t quit in the next month.”

Perhaps this is also the reason why Isabelle enjoys a diverse range of experiences. Apart from running practice every week, the Primary Three student from Rosyth School also participates in ballet and piano classes.

Lessons from outdoor education

“But I have learnt that a job as a parent is not just to send your kids to enrichment classes, but to spend time with them,” he added.

As such, Kwang Peng plays with his kids as much as possible – such as his weekly runs with Isabelle ­– and avoids using technology to occupy their time.

Unlike most families, he and his wife, a research scientist at the Singapore General Hospital’s National Heart Centre, do not own an iPad. They also do not play games on their phones.

“Since the kids were young, we do not use gadgets to distract them. It’s a rule that we set,” he said. “Kids learn by observing. And we try to set an example.”

At the end of her practice, Isabelle spots her father at the track side, and comes running towards him.

When asked why she enjoys running so much, Isabelle shies away. Beating the boys in your class, right? Her eyes brighten and she nods.

Having picked up his running shoes again, Kwang Peng hopes to join the Singapore Masters Track & Field Association, which caters to athletes above 35. Isabelle also hopes to see her dad compete in events again.

“Running has taught me to be disciplined. I remember after training, I would go home, and then fall asleep. I did not watch TV, or have a girlfriend,” he said.

Today, he hopes to pass that experience of developing mental toughness and resilience through sports down to his kids.

And while Kwang Peng has inspired Isabelle to run, she has also in turn rekindled his love for running – a special father-daughter bond they share.


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