Women bodybuilders are quite few and even fewer receive the kind of attention and adulation that their male counterparts do receive. One such former bodybuilder who was a pioneer of sorts in the field of bodybuilding in Singapore is Agnes Quintessa Lee.
Agnes’ journey as a bodybuilder is not an ordinary one and this definitely is the one that will inspire others.
Foray into bodybuilding
In the year 1985 at the age of 32, when Agnes was working on sales for architectural products and weighed a skinny 46kg she met Addy Lagnan (and later dated) who was training to become a professional bodybuilder. He convinced her to give the gym a shot for working out as Agnes at that time used to swim daily as a stress reliever. She agreed and in her words, “it was love at the first pump”. She felt like she belonged there and found bodybuilding to be her true calling, as she fell in love with “iron”. Since in those days there was a lack of information from the internet and no social media or pictures to gain knowledge from, Agnes relied on Addy and others from the gym for tips and knowledge. Post that there was no looking back as she worked out religiously and continues to do so.
In the year 1986, she won her first title at a National Bodybuilding competition, overcoming her fear of going on stage, nervousness, and shyness. After that, she became a full-time bodybuilder who won at several competitions. She was, in fact, the Singapore champion for two years in a row, 1988 and 1989, and even went on to be crowned the Asian Champion for the years 1988, 1989, 1994 to 1999 and finally in the year 2003 ( the year when she retired). In fact, she retired on a high note as she won a gold medal while competing at the age of 50 at an event in Russia.
Agnes also took part in the mixed pair categories and tasted success there too. In 1987, she paired with Ismail Tahir for the Asian Mixed Pairs category held in Taipei and won in that category for the first time. In the years 1988 and 1989, he paired with James Kwik, going to win both times.
After winning the championship for the first time, she got offered to work at Gold Gym’s in Singapore’s Orchard as a physical instructor. And that was the beginning of her journey as a trainer which continues to date where she personally trains close to 25 clients.
Agnes dedication and strict regime
Agnes feels a sense of happiness and confidence when working out, right to this day when she is 65 years old but can give any man half her age a complex given her physique and stamina. In fact, she spent her 60th birthday by doing 6 reps of 120 kg squats. She credits her strict diet and disciplined exercise routine for this continued rigor.
Her diet usually consists of brown rice with dory fish, sometimes even three times a day. Even for special occasions, like weddings, she requests for steamed pomfret or steamed chicken breast meat. Even on occasions, such as the Chinese New Year, she ensures her meals are healthy, thereby keeping the overall fat percentage to as low as 11 percent.
Breaks in the career
Agnes’ golden run had to be broken by two incidents where she took a break from the year 1989 to 1994 and later from the year 2000 to 2003. The first break was due to a meniscus tear after a bike accident where she hurt her ankles while riding pillion. She ignored the pain which escalated until she had to take a break from bodybuilding and bare the excruciating pain until she recovered.
The other break was due to exhaustion and a stressful schedule as she was training close to 15 clients in a day and had no time to eat or even train herself. The break was needed for her to regain from the stressful schedule and devote time to her training and herself.
Agnes married twice and that too to builders, but both her marriages didn’t work. Her first marriage was to an American which barely lasted a year. Her second marriage was to a Singaporean which lasted 4 years, but she felt bound in the marriage and valued her freedom and liberty to live on her terms more, thus ending the marriage. She has no children and considers it as God’s will.
Agnes Lee – an inspiration and role model for all generations
The dedication, zeal, and enthusiasm with which Agnes achieved new heights in the field of bodybuilding along with her hard work and determination to stay fit. And she led a healthy and happy life and continues to be an inspiration to people of all generations.
You can follow Agnes on her Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/aqlee13ironladylicious/
Photos used with permission from Agnes Quintessa Lee.
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