Man of Steel

20 February 2017

When he’s not saving lives as a full-time firefighter, Mohd Amran Abdul Ghani trains to become the very best IRONMAN triathlete.

The job of a firefighter is a demanding one, to say the least. A scroll through the official Facebook page of Malaysia’s Fire and Rescue Department will reveal just how wide and varied their rescue missions are: if one post is about pulling someone free from the wreckage of their car, another speaks of freeing someone’s trapped leg from the iron bars of a drain hole cover. There seems to be more small-scale freak accidents than fire-related rescue missions, but the ahli bomba are always there ­– even if it’s to save the proverbial cat stuck up a tree.

With 12-hour shifts five days a week and off-duty days that don’t always fall on a weekend, it takes an extra level of determination to also commit oneself to becoming a world-class triathlete. For Mohd Amran Abdul Ghani, a firefighter with the Bukit Jelutong Fire and Rescue Department in Selangor since 2001, he doesn’t let the challenges of his day job get in the way of his ultimate goal: to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, said to be the most challenging one-day sporting event in the world.


Amran at the 2014 IRONMAN Malaysia, Langkawi race

“[My role is to] drive our squad to the emergency area whenever we receive calls. Nothing is considered too small while you’re on duty as a firefighter – all missions are important and require a focused mind,” says Amran.

As rescuers, firefighters are required to be physically fit, so it’s not uncommon for them to work out during their free time. In fact, the Fire and Rescue Department often organises its own games and tournaments, including the Sukan Bomba Malaysia and Larian Bersama Bomba, a 10km run open to the public.

In Amran’s case, after years of taking part in track and field events, winning triathlons and being a five-time Powerman Malaysia duathlon champion, the 36-year-old entered his first IRONMAN Malaysia, Langkawi event in 2014. A gruelling international triathlon involving a 3.8km swim, cycling for 180km and running for another 42km, Amran’s first IRONMAN race saw him finish as the Best Malaysian IRONMAN. Just last year, he even managed to reclaim that title when the race returned to Langkawi.

When you’re the country’s best in your category, the only way up is to play in the big league against the crème de la crème of IRONMAN athletes around the world – hence Amran’s ultimate goal of making it to Kailua-Kona. But just earning a qualifying slot is a huge feat in itself: on top of competing in an IRONMAN event the previous year, you’ll also need a podium finish in your category to qualify.

As Amran’s chances of realising his dream are largely dependent on whether IRONMAN Malaysia, Langkawi will return, in the meantime, he’s keeping up his momentum by entering other races.

“For now, I wish to enter Powerman Malaysia and Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon [in May],” says Amran. “I also hope IRONMAN Malaysia, Langkawi will return this year so I can try to qualify for the world championship.”

It’s still early enough in the year for some of us to keep to a newly adopted fitness plan as per the all-too-common New Year’s resolution, but what’s as common as people pledging to become fitter is also the tendency to give up mid-year. For Amran, what keeps him going is his passion as a triathlete to constantly up his game. In fact, if he had to pick between being a firefighter and triathlete, he would go with the latter, for sure.

“I’m psyched to be doing this [being a triathlete], so I’m able to keep my mind focused,” explains Amran. “I don’t think about being tired.”

As for how to stay committed to your fitness regime, Amran stresses on the importance of evaluating your end goal.

“Self-motivation is really important. You need to make sure you have a reasonable aim: are you working out for health and fitness? For physical appearance? What’s your goal and is it important to you? If it is, you won’t be making up excuses to avoid doing something difficult.”

For Amran, he can work 12-hour shifts five times a week as a firefighter – travelling from one emergency scene to another, constantly dealing with the pressures of having someone’s life in your hands – and still make the time to train for races and spend time with his family. Apparently, the only thing stopping you is yourself.

By Syarifah Syazana
Images courtesy of IRONMAN Malaysia

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