28 Amazing Athletes Who Will Inspire The Younger Generation of Dragon Boaters

After twelve days of exciting, nerve-racking, and historic sporting moments at the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) held in Singapore, what’s next for the athletes?

Some events at the SEA Games 2015 started days before the Opening Ceremonies and a few finished just hours before the Closing Ceremonies; yet, it must have been a quick, sweet and sweaty ride for the organisers, athletes, coaches, race officials and volunteers. It all just passed by oh-so-quickly!

While most of the foreign athletes have already gone back to their countries and others may still be enjoying a little bit of time in Singapore; nonetheless, where ever they are at this moment, we just want to salute and thank them for their fantastic performances at the games. To those who were unfortunately injured, we wish them full recovery soon.

For some athletes, say, those in Athletics, they will be competing again for the Asian Grand Prix in Thailand, 22nd June 2015, just a week after the games. Other disciplines are taking a short break and then slowly start to prepare for competitions coming right up. For those who may have qualified for the Rio Olympics, all the very best! Show them the might of the Southeast Asians!

Traditional Boat Race

As we are very passionate about any sport, on top of our list is Dragon Boat (or Traditional Boat Race as labelled in SEA Games). We have witnessed the two-day competition held in Marina Bay and for each and every Heat, from the Qualifiers up to the Finals, the dragons of each competing countries definitely breathed and expelled big fires.

Teams from Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar truly lived up to our expectations but the most promising one was the performance from Team Singapore, where they copped five Bronze Medals, out of the eight events contested. The last time that the Men’s Team had won its SEA Games medal was in 1993. The Women’s Team got a Bronze Medal in SEA Games 2013 and 2 Bronzes this year.

It was during this recent SEA Games where we’ve seen the dragon boaters from different nations bonded like brothers and sisters; and some teams visited their competitor’s tent, shook hands, and took group photos and usies or teamfies. A delight to see that even though they battle head to head and burn water at the race; yet they are friends on land–an enormous spectacle of the spirit of camaraderie, sportsmanship and friendship.

By the end of the two-day event (Day1 – 200m; Day2 – 500m), Thailand had won 5 Golds, 3 Silvers; Indonesia with 2 Golds; Myanmar had a Gold, 5 Silvers and 2 Bronzes; Singapore with 5 Bronzes; and Philippines brought home 1 Bronze. Thailand dominated the 500m races while Indonesia copped their Golds from 200m sprint races. Singapore swept all 4 Bronzes from the 500m races and 1 from the 200m race.

Celebrate the Extraordinary

The final medal tally is out and the ceremonies had closed. The SEA Games Baton was passed on to Malaysia who will be hosting the biennial event in 2017.

Let us take you back to the inspiring stories of the Dragon Boat Team Singapore athletes as they’ve embarked on their SEA Games journey. Theirs are stories of hope and inspiration as some had opted to go for an unpaid leave from their job, while some student athletes had to skip half or full term, in pursuit of their athletic dreams.

While each of them had persevered amidst any circumstance they were in; and after several blisters, calluses, and some back and shoulder injuries later, they stood up at the medal podium bringing pride and glory to Singapore. It was their best moment.

DBTEAMSG Women's Team


28 Athletes, 28 Questions

We want to salute these amazing dragon boaters for sharing their most unreservedly sincere responses. Such highly affecting narratives of their experiences as athletes; worthy to be emulated, especially by the younger Singaporeans who aspire to one day represent the nation in the SEA Games, Asian Games, World Champs or any other major dragon boat race.

There’s definitely an abundance of strong potential candidates from the tertiary school teams like Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Polytechnic (SP), National University of Singapore (NUS), Temasek Polytechnic (TP), et cetera, who have what it takes to be paddling in the elite level ranks. They are the future of dragon boating in Singapore; and that future looks radiant and auspicious.

Now, more than ever, Dragon Boat Team Singapore is stronger and making its way to the top.

1. Kang Yu Jia | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

What is the greatest sacrifice you made when you decided to come on board as a full-time athlete?

I have given up work, as you know, but, giving up the family time really would be the greatest sacrifice I have made in embarking on the journey. It’s funny and sad at the same time because my mom would always say, “Every time, every time dragon boat.” I keep this as a motivation though. It’s for me, my team, of course my family, and Team Singapore.

2. Clement Neo | 22yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

What drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boating?

It’s really the rest of the guys—the way they are training and pushing themselves, it’s so motivating. You will feel that you must do the same thing—to excel. That’s what drives me and that’s what makes me love the sport when I was first exposed in dragon boat.

3. Barath Kumar | 23yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

You have the genes and capabilities to represent Singapore in the Traditional Boat Race, how do you handle such pressure?

I think there’s not much of a pressure on our part as we are the underdogs in this particular sport. “We’ve got nothing to lose”, in a manner of speaking; but since the SEA Games will be held in Singapore, much like a home court, I will do my best to show that Singapore can be great too, in this sport.

4. Chen Qiujun Jennifer | 30yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How do you envision the Dragon Boat Team Singapore’s performance in the SEA Games 2015?

We will break more records, create history for Singapore’s dragon boat and anything additional is a bonus!

5. Pamela Choong Peiling | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Do you set your own personal goals? How is it beneficial to you as an athlete?

I set micro personal goals, such as trying to improve my personal bests in things like the number of pull-ups I can do, weights I can lift, or how fast I can run for certain distances. It helps me focus on the training at hand and not be overwhelmed with the length of this entire commitment. When I witness myself hitting my goals and getting stronger than before my belief in myself strengthens, and confidence is vital in self-motivation.

6. Lim Wee Siang | 23yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

How important is the coach’s role in keeping the supportive and respectful climate in the team?

To me it’s very important. They are our guide—they direct us on the path—the championships. They would lead us to the destination (the games) and we will just follow. It’s not that we only follow and not think on our own but often times they are very convincing and I feel obliged and willing to follow. That constitutes a trustworthy and respectful climate within the team.

7. Hu QinMei | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Can you share to us one thing that makes being in the N-Team so rewarding to you?

Even though we may not serve much in the workforce or in the economic aspect, we are honoured to be the key presenters/ambassadors of Singapore to other nations. Bringing pride and glory to the country through this sport is very meaningful and rewarding.

8. Lam Yi He | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

In terms of dragon boating, how do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I enjoy sharing my experiences and teaching its lessons to others. I actually do some orientation programmes with the Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA) on weekdays. I just enjoy letting other people know about the sports. So, yeah, probably I see myself facilitating dragon boat training sessions in the future.

9. Hayden Ong | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

What is the nature of your coach-athlete relationship with your new National Coach?

I joined the N-Team in 2012, and when Wee Jin took over the Women’s Team, I find him to be easy to communicate with. He cares for our welfare, he always advises us to go back home early and get ample rest because recovery is important for the succeeding trainings.

10. How Wei Min | 26yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

What’s the vital role of the National Coach in the development of your athletic performance and as an individual?

The coach must understand each and every one of the paddlers well and he must know their strengths and weaknesses; and know how to bring the team together. The Coach must also be very flexible and must know how the paddlers are feeling on a particular set/training piece, whether they can push beyond their limits.

11. Ng Ji Yan | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

You started with the N-Team since 2010 and have had injuries along the way, what drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boat sport?

I guess, the way of life—the rigidness of it, because as you know, it’s fixed—you just go to training everyday. Another thing that actually drives me is the discipline of the sport. As an example, I am not really into running and being in the N-Team you need to do it. I learn discipline and it also keeps me fit, and, at the same time it creates this structure in my life—honestly, I don’t know what to do with all this time if I don’t paddle.

12. Kong Peng Hui | 29yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

How do you envision success (of this journey to SEA Games)?

Success to me is clinching the medal and having the capability to retain and defend it. We need to appeal to the dragon boat community and attract more people to join so that we’ll have a larger pool of athletes to choose from.

13. Shona Chan Wai Kay | 21yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How do you know if there is compatibility between an athlete and the coach?

You would know if the goals are aligned. The athlete and the coach may not have the same idea/s, so mainly if the goals are aligned then it will work. If for example, the coach wants to alter a training program or technique, the athlete on the other hand should want to try it for he/she knows that it’s for the best, it’s toward the achievement of a common goal.

14. Shawn Tan Jit Lun | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Given the number of hours of trainings per week, how do you keep up with it?

With as much as 12 training sessions a week, physically you won’t be 100% fresh. My teammates are the ones that keep me going. We are all in this together and with the same common goal in mind.

15. Oz Titus Hong Mong Zi | 29yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Having temporarily relinquished your job to embark on such a high-level athletic career, do you feel like that you’re putting your life on hold?

Honestly, I don’t think that my life is being put on hold; rather it’s being fast-forwarded, because other athletes/teams are taking it years and years to accumulate or create, we have done it in one year. It’s like being compressed into a short but intensive journey.

16. Tan Chun Leng | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Being in the National team is a tough responsibility. What keeps you going?

After racing for many years in the National Team, we haven’t got the chance to defeat the South East Asian and East Asian powerhouses. The closest was in 2013 at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat race when we won against China and lost to Thailand by only a margin. I reckon it is the winning and as well as bringing honour to Singapore in the Traditional Boat Race (Dragon Boat) are the factors that keep me going.

17. Lim Xiao Wei | 26yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How intense does your training go nowadays? How important is the element of fun for you?

Intensive. It’s very intensive. Again, it’s comforting to say, “It’s going to be worth it. I think the secret recipe is that our coach can poke fun with us and we sometimes tease him as well; but when we need to get serious, we know how and when to adjust. It’s the element of fun that spices up our everyday training.

18. Wee Zheng Joyce | 21yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How does a goal-setting mentality provide you with the motivation you need to keep going?

Internally, I try to be more positive. In some days, I will question myself if I can really do this? I condition my mind that I/we can do it and I must push some more at trainings. So every time a negative thing comes to mind, I try to deal with it positively and just keep on going. I would tell myself, “Don’t let go of the moment.”

19. Gan Chea Hau | 24yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

What drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boat?

The brotherhood within the team; and I also want to bring the sport to a higher level in terms of recognition and more support from the community. That’s what keeps me going.

20. Diana Nai Min Zhen | 23yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Your coaches help execute the team’s training program, how does it help improve your individualised program and workout habits?

In terms of Land Training, we need to keep up with our teammates and do heavier weights and do more repetitions. We are given a target speed or a certain timing to hit, so this definitely helps our individualised program and workout habits. Another thing is that we are often reshuffled in different sitting positions to make us more adaptable and this will also enable the Coach to see where we excel more.

21. Jerry Tan | 31yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

In this 28th SEA Games journey, where do you get that inner drive to perform your best at the race?

I would look back at the journey that we have embarked on for a particular game. The months and months that we have prepared for, the sacrifices, everything we have gone through–I take inspiration from it. Pull motivation from the amount of training hours we have committed and then apply it in the game. After all, it’s just a very short moment to execute, so just give it all!

22. Leong Yang Xian Ellycia | 22yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

How does the training programme help improve your own individualised program and workout habits?

With paddling, they help us individually, especially in areas where we can improve more—stroke wise and technique wise. They would also observe our form during our weights training. Having said that, I learn a lot from them and I apply it in my own workout habits. There are also some additional techniques on certain exercises and from there we learn from it and carry on. There’s been a good collaboration between our coaches so it’s a great thing.

23. Tan Yong Zhi Esmonde | 25yo, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

How do you maintain a good rapport with your coach? How important is this for an athlete?

Yes, it’s important and I must say it’s natural for the coaches and athlete to have a good rapport as we spend more time with our team mates and coaches as compared to our loved ones, family, friends etc. It all comes down to the trust and confidence we have in our coach, to train and prepare us for clocking our best time to win the gold medal that we’re aiming for.

24. Loh Peixuan | 25yo, Vice-Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

The trainings are extremely physically demanding, how do you condition yourself to achieving that long-range goal?

I see to it that I get ample rest time and to always stretch properly to recover faster. Drink lots of water to replenish fluid lost. Consuming food with higher protein source to assist with muscle repair is also very important.

25. Raymond Kiang Jian Xiang | 27yo, Vice-Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Outside the dragon boating world, who is the athlete that you admire the most and why?

That would be soccer player, Lionel Messi. I admire him not just for his athletic skills, but also for his determination and hard work. Despite his height and size, as compared to other European players, it did not hinder him in becoming one of the greats in his chosen sport.

26. Christie Han | 28yo, Vice-Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Women’s Team)

Looking back to that first dragon boat experience, what does Dragon Boat mean in your life now? 

Dragon boating had taught me so much, about myself, about people and relationships, and many values in life. I know I won’t be able to be competing forever, but I want to be able to end my dragon boating career on a high. Hence I have committed myself training full-time in preparation for the upcoming SEA Games here in Singapore, and in this process I strive to become the best athlete I will ever be.

27. Shanice Ng Xuening | 22yo, Women’s Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore

Do you sometimes play a mental video of a race with your toughest competition?

Yes. I would sometimes even dream of it. The Myanmar team is very strong but the team that we consider to be our toughest competitor would be Thailand; because we were on the same level with them in the past. They have athletes who are working and studying, just like our team; but now, they have become as strong and almost on the same league as Myanmar. So, we really need to train harder and catch up with them.

28. Loh Zhi Ying | 22yo, Men’s Captain – Dragon Boat Team Singapore

How important is the coach’s role in keeping the supportive and respectful climate in the team?

They are very important. Our Coaches are like ‘maps’. They are the one leading us to our end results. They also serve as our checkpoints—they keep an eye on us. As they serve as our guidelines and checkpoints, they make sure that we are on the right track towards our destination—achieving the goal of the team.

These eager, hopeful, passionate athletes are full of aspirations—such a crazy bunch of inspiring, persistent and high-spirited dragons they all are. BIG Congratulations!

Read the Full Interviews HERE.

*Singapore Dragon Boat Association, the National Sports Authority (NSA) for the sport of dragon boat in Singapore, develops and maintains the Dragon Boat Team Singapore (N-Team).

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