ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT
Outdoor lover and wine connoisseur LC Leong-Alsagoff shares the rich history of her life, and how she keeps living it to the fullest

by Sandra Foo

LC Leong

Chuck Palahniuk once said, “If you knew that your life was merely a phase or short, short segment of your entire existence, how would you live? Knowing nothing ‘real’ was at risk, what would you do? You’d live a gigantic, bold, fun, dazzling life. You know you would. That’s what the ghosts want us to do – all the exciting things they no longer can.”

And that is exactly what one woman has chosen to do with her life.

At first sight – and occasionally over the phone – LC Leong-Alsagoff can come off as intimidating, almost taciturn, even. But it takes only a moment for her warm and vivacious nature to break through that exterior, and not much longer for the extraordinary adventure that is her life to completely win one over. With a constantly-on-the-go-but-slowing-down-to-enjoy-this-moment approach to life, LC believes in “doing all I can while I can, and living a fulfilled life with the things I want to do.”

With a qualification in kinesiology, LC has always lived an active lifestyle, having previously played tennis and golf, but always leaning more toward her favored sport: shooting. “I like the sport because it allows you your own space. You really have to focus, tune everything out and concentrate on the process of achieving your goal,” she says.

Her history with the sport is a rich one. “When I first moved back from Canada, I met a shooting coach who told me that [they were] looking for ladies to compete in shooting. I’m a very curious person, so I figured I would give it a try and went to the shooting range – I only realized when I got there that I was a shooting range! – where the coach told me to try shooting with an air pistol. I didn’t find it exciting, so he took me to another range and let me try shooting live rounds with a .22 pistol. I suppose he was impressed enough, because he encouraged me to keep practicing.

“Three months later, we went to Singapore for an open invitational with a team of ladies, and lo and behold! We came back with a team gold, and it was the first time that a Malaysian ladies’ team had ever won a gold abroad. This was in 1986, and I was really eager for the sport after that.”

LC’s enthusiasm and hard work paid off, as she went on to win a silver in the 1989 South East Asian (SEA) Games in her home turf, and represented Malaysia in the following Commonwealth Games. Even though she has ceased competing in the sport, save for the occasional invitational, she continues to take it up recreationally.

Excelling in such a male-dominated sport has not come without its obstacles. “You have to be very determined to succeed in shooting,” she says. “A lot of women are very good at it, but after they get married and has families, it becomes very difficult to keep it up. I feel that women should have their own identities, and to have their own space to enjoy the things that relax and uplift them. But of course, women are very magnanimous; they always sacrifice for their families.”

Despite her long history in shooting, LC admits that there is still much room for progress among the women. “Those who are still shooters are so because their husbands are still shooters,” she says somewhat ruefully. “It has become something that they do together. There isn’t really anyone who can nurture the youth to excel in shooting. But now that we have quite a good team in the Precision Pistol Shooting, we want to nurture and encourage more women to take up shooting. Our only setback is that because shooting is a weapon-based sport, firearms are limited. Many men do own handguns, but I don’t know if they would let their wives practice with them!” she laughs.

LC’s love for trying new things and enjoying some of the finer things in life also spilled into her professional life: she is the Managing Director of A&L Adventure and Leisure Sdn Bhd, a company supplying outdoor equipment and wines that she started with her husband, Tuan Syed Farouk Alsagoff.

“My husband and I started the company about 15 years ago. A&L stands for Adventure and Leisure, and it is also both our last names,” LC explains. “Under the Adventure division we import scuba diving equipment and outdoor gear, and the Leisure division imports wines. My husband had been an importer of sports equipment in Singapore for many years, and I joined him after we got married, but we moved our base to Malaysia. It was a good move in the long term, because it’s so much more cost-efficient here than it is in Singapore, and we now have territories for representation in both Malaysia and Singapore. He handles the sales, while I do the marketing, for the company.”

We enjoy wines and the F&B lifestyle, so we sell our wines to the niche market, such as for private wine tastings and to high-end jewelry stores. We don’t sell cult wines – those are very expensive, and we want people to be able to enjoy good wines at good prices. It’s true that good wine and good company lead to good times!

“We bring in wines from people we know who own vineyards. We want to be more personalized in the wines that we sell. People who know what wines they want and where to get them at good prices for their parties and events, will always buy from us. We buy from small family-owned vineyards, because they are very proud of what they do. The bigger, more commercialized names have their pull, of course, but they don’t have that personal touch and the kind of pride that the smaller family-owned names have,” she explains.

Given that LC owns and runs the business with her husband, it is inevitable that her family and professional lives have merged. “The wines give us something new to talk about!” she says with a laugh.

LC’s involvement in the wine industry and also opened her eyes to how other industries operate. “We enjoy dining out all over the world, and we see the differences and progress in the places that we’ve been too. In the United States, for example, the F&B industry is very competitive; you have to be very good to stay alive, and not just because you are financed by a hotel or because you are a household name,” she declares.

“In Malaysia, we do see a lot of up-and-comers, but they face a lot of restrictions, such as owners who are less of restaurateurs and more of investors or financial backers. On the other hand, they are also limited by chefs who own the restaurants, but are unable to balance art with business. Nevertheless, we have been to good restaurants, although now we dine a lot at home, because my housekeeper cooks very well!” she says.

Despite her love of good food and good wine, LC maintains a healthy, well-balanced diet. “I do eat consistently healthy, but of course you have to give your body a break and enjoy your food. I never limit myself – I love my fried foods – but I take everything in moderation,” she says. “I also don’t believe in the current juice detox craze going around. I was trained in health studies, so I understand the placebo effect that creates a false threshold in your body, making it think that it needs that much vitamins. So I stick to natural foods. We eat meat every day, but we cut out the carbohydrates.”

After speaking with her, one can’t help but wonder what the biggest misconception of LC is. “I think the first thing people think of me is that I’m very fierce,” she muses (we laugh to mask our consent). “And a lot of the time, they mistake my confidence for arrogance. People are so quick to make judgment calls based on first impressions.”

Amidst the fulfilling life that she lives, LC does not lose touch with the values she lives by. “I am a practicing Buddhist, so I believe in cause and effect. Whatever I believe in is for empowerment, and not really something that I can manifest from within. Man cannot be so big that he knows everything. There is an inner self that makes you believe in something, and that is the strength from which you persevere, tap into your courage and teach others to the best of your ability.”

LC’s own inner strength, she believes, comes from her faith. “It is empowering for me to believe in a greater potential that I can challenge myself to bring out.”