Dragon Boat World Athlete: From Neophyte to World Champion

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Corinne Hanlon, National Athlete – Canadian National Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Corinne Hanlon
BIRTHPLACE: Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
AGE: 26yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Right
HEIGHT: 173cm
WEIGHT: 66kg
STATUS: In a relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF Club Crew World Championships 2010, 3 Bronzes  – U23 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 1000m
IDBF World Dragonboat Racing Championship 2011, 4 Golds – U23 Women’s, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m
IDBF Club Crew World Championships 2012, 3 Silvers – U24 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 2000m
IDBF World Dragonboat Racing Championship 2015, 8 Golds – Mixed, U24 Women’s Mixed, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m


Our featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, Corinne Hanlon, is a graduate of University of Waterloo with a Masters Degree in Geochemistry. This World Champion loves indie music and board games, especially Dominion. She has a twin sister, “a non-dragon boater though”, she said. Corinne now paddles with the Outer Harbour Warriors. She describes them as a group of extremely hard working folks who love to paddle.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Neophyte

The very first time Corinne experienced dragon boating was in 2009. It was during the United Way Charity Regatta, at a camp where she used to work. She was never into sports back then but when school started, and because of that first dragon boat experience, she joined the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Club (UWDBC).

“I started attending more practices.”, she recalled. “After the first summer racing with UWDBC, I knew this was the team I wanted to be on for the rest of my university days. They showed me what being part of a team is really like, and that’s what really pushed me to become the athlete that I am today.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon
Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

CCWC to WDBRC

Corinne’s first international exposure was in 2010. She paddled with the Pickering Dragon Boat Club (PDBC) U24 in Macau, China for the Club Crew World Championships (CCWC). The following year, she tried out for Canadian National Team U24 where she successfully earned a spot in the Women’s Team.

“I followed a training schedule that our coach gave me.”, she said. “I tried to watch my diet as best as I could (being the noob I was), particularly during the months leading up to the competition. Most importantly, I learned that I love to compete. I wanted to win, and I was willing to put in the work to win.”

When asked on her decision to join the National Team: “It was a great learning experience and I got the chance to see a national team try-out process from beginning to end. I got to work with some great coaches, and I got to see what it’s like to paddle in a really fast boat, and I loved it.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon
Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

A Magnanimous Act

In 2012, the UWDBC received a very generous donation from Dragon Boat Canada, the official governing body for the sport of Dragon Boat in Canada. It was a dragon boat and a storage container. It came just in time for their preparation for CCWC in Hong Kong.

“It was an amazing development. Before that season we had to travel to Toronto on weekends to train; but when we had our own boat, we could get out on the water any day of the week, at any time of day, and boy did we take advantage! That summer was filled with late night paddle practices, early morning drylands, and team bonding days.”, Corinne reminisced.


While she’s excited to bring her paddling career to the next stage, let’s discover how she prepares for races, her healthy perspective of the sport and her take on what would boost more interest in the sport.

Q: As a National Athlete who had previously competed in Club Crew World Championships (CCWC) in Macau and Hong Kong, in terms of preparation, what is the main difference between representing a club as opposed to representing your country?

A: The selection process is a bit different. When you are representing your club, your club must qualify the previous year at Nationals. When you are representing your country, you must try out for the team as an individual.

Q: You mentioned that you started to compete internationally from 2010; if any, how did it change your perspective on the ‘competitiveness’ of this sport?

A: Competing locally, you really only see the teams that are in the vicinity, although occasionally some teams travel in from Montreal, Vancouver, or the US. I don’t think I realized the true expanse of the dragon boat community until I competed internationally. It was (and always is) really cool to see the huge number of teams from around the world come together to compete.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon
Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Q: Dragon Boat brings people and even nations together, aside from this, what are the other benefits?

A: It sounds cheesy, but it’s a great way to stay fit and have fun. Your teammates will be your friends for life, and you will never work as hard in the gym or on the water as when your team is there, counting on you and supporting you at the same time.

Q: Do you sometimes play a mental video of a race against your toughest competition?

A: I don’t like visualizing really tough competition, because doing so usually causes me to panic and not paddle well. I try to visualize a race which I will be happy with myself for racing, and that allows me to focus, stay in control, and give it my all.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Q: From 2009 up to the present, you must have trained with several coaches already, what is the most common impact/lesson from among your coaches which you’d remember for the longest time?  Can you share it with us and how did it affect you as a person?

A: Take care of yourself and paddle smart. Being competitive athletes, it’s easy to get caught up in the training. Make sure to drink lots of water, sleep at least 8 hours a night, and take care of injuries. Your team needs you to be strong AND healthy.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Q: In 2012, Dragon Boat Canada has donated a boat to your team. This was a very generous move by the Association; moreso, a great way to promote the sport. What is your personal idea of boosting our sport to be at par with the more popular ones?

A: Yes, it was extremely generous! Having access to a boat streamlined the formation of the Waterloo Paddling Club, and since then it has expanded to include teams of UWaterloo Alumni, Breast Cancer Survivors, and high school students in the Waterloo Region. In my opinion, continued outreach will help in boosting interest in the sport.

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

A: Definitely Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. Aside from her impressive weightlifting, her determination, focus, and light-heartedness are all inspiring attributes.


Photos: George Wang, Alexandra Hennig, Ricky Tjandra, Colleen Leung, Fancy Lai, Vincent Chu, Anthony Gallaccio, Ed Nguyen

*This interview has been edited and condensed

 
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Regaining Strength and Motivation through Dragon Boat

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Josefine Jönsson, National Athlete – Swedish National Dragon Boat Team.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Josefine Jönsson
BIRTHPLACE: Lund, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 1.82cm
WEIGHT: 82kg
STATUS: In a Relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
ECA European Championships 2015, Auronzo di Cadore
Guld – 20manna, Mixed, 200m; Brons – 20manna, Mixed, 500m, 2000m; Silver – 20manna, Women, 500M; Brons – 10manna, Women, 200m, 200m; Brons – 10manna, Mixed, 2000m

ICF World Dragon Boat Racing Championship 2014, Poznan
Silver – 10manna, Women 500m, 2000m; Brons – 20manna, Mixed, 500m

IDBF World Dragonboat Racing Championship 2013, Szeged
Silver – 20manna, U24 Mixed, 1000m; Brons – 20manna, U24 Mixed, 500m

Swedish Nationals 2015, Nyköping
Guld –10manna mix 200m; Silver – 10manna mix 500m

Swedish Nationals 2014, Jönköping
Guld – 10manna, Mixed, 200m, 500m


 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Our Dragon Boat World Athlete from Sweden, Josefine Jönsson, has already won numerous Swedish Nationals in Swimming before she started competing in Dragon Boat races. Josefine studied in the University of Gothenburg to become a health promoter and nutritionist. She pursued to take up Entrepreneurship in hopes of starting her own business one day.

“Before I started paddling I considered myself as a good swim athlete. I train hard to fulfil my dream of representing Sweden in the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, recurring sickness and injuries kept my dream of becoming a professional swimmer to come into reality.”, Josefine recalled.

Though there were some obstructions in her sporting career in the past and it even came to a point where she lost her motivation–all her passions faded. Voila! Three years later, she has regained it all back when a friend and fellow swimmer introduced her to Dragon Boat. It was with the Malmö KK when she first started.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Because of her early experience in elite swimming and her hard work of learning the sport, it did not take long until she joined the National Team. Her first world championship was in 2013 and that was where she won her first U24 medal. She’s now part of KK Eskimå and she’s been paddling with them for three years now.

“Today I have found love for Dragon Boat and a couple of other sports, such as: Boxing, Running, Crossfit, Outrigger Canoeing and Skiing. I enjoy training a lot and I constantly strive to become stronger and better.”, she shared with gusto.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson


Q: Being in the National team is a tough responsibility, what/who keeps you going?

A: My teammates and the fun experience that we share together. We really support each other and try to help each other as much as possible. We sing and dance at our training camps to make it a more fun environment. My love for the sport motivates me to train hard and set big goals. I want to be a world champion, and hopefully one day I could participate in the Olympic Games, competing in Dragon Boat racing.

Q: How intense does your training go, say, two or three months before the race? Does your team stay in a training camp for a certain period of time before the race? Please share to us something about it and what do you think are its benefits?

We increase our paddling training together as a team. Our training schedule remains fairly consistent: We paddle 1-2 days a week, then we run, go to the gym and do other exercises together. We also do a lot of fitness tests both in cardio and in strength. We have 3 training camps from April to July. We make sure that we arrive at the race venue a couple of days before the competition to get acquainted with the boats and to get a feel of the atmosphere at the competition site. Testing out the boats prior to the competition is very important to us because different countries may sometimes use a different kind of dragon boat on a particular kind of race.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Q: What is an effective formula for having or maintaining a ‘solid crew’ in the team?

A: Trust, support, chemistry and having the element of fun in the team. Then, of course, a lot of training together as a team, so that everyone can keep up on the same pace.

Q: Having intensively trained with the Swedish National Team went for several international races, what do you admire most about your fellow athletes?

A: I admire their fighting drive, their high spirits, and the positive mindset to always support each other and help each other with our weaknesses.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Q: Was there a time when you thought of quitting the team? If yes, would you like to share to us the reason why? What was your motivating factor which encouraged you to continue on?

A: I considered leaving the team at one point because it is an expensive sport. Frankly, we need more support from sponsors; and it’s very difficult to get them on board. Simply because it (dragon boat) is still a very small sport here in Sweden. The love I have for the sport and my amazing teammates made me keep on going.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Q: Aside from your family and teammates who are together with you on this journey (dragon boating life), is there anyone else that you want to send a message of thanks?

A: I want to thank my boyfriend who supports me no matter what. My best friend, Ida, who always gives me good advice, keeps my hopes up and keeps me laughing.

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

A: Michael Phelps, because he is the best athlete in the world and he has accomplished what people told him was impossible.


 
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SPECIAL FEATURE: Olympic Medalist Marcel Nguyen on his Next Big Goal

Born on 8th September 1987 in Unterhaching, Munich, Germany, Marcel Nguyen, started gymnastics at the early age of four. At the age of ten, he was already part of the top young gymnasts in Germany and subsequently opened the door for his first ever international competition in 2002.

With several National and European Championship medals in his record, his popularity intensified in 2012 when he brought home two Olympic Silver Medals in Men’s Artistic Individual All-Around and Parallel Bars from the London Olympic Games.

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics

In September 2014, the two-time Olympic medalist, suffered from a knee injury which required immediate surgery of his ligaments and then a second surgery needs to be performed five months later. As a result, he missed his chance to compete in the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships which were held in Nanning, China, that same year.

We had the good fortune to ask the Olympian about his vision as well as his preparations for the upcoming Rio 2016, his relationship with his coach, and his sacrifices as an athlete.

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics


Eugephemisms: What does Gymnastics mean to you?

Marcel Nguyen: That means really much for sure. I have been doing gymnastics since I was a small child and that actually made me exactly the person that I am now.

E: How do you envision Team Germany’s performance in the coming Rio Olympics? How are the preparations?

MN: I feel that I’m a part of a good team; no more, no less. I still hope to be qualified for participation. I think I’m quite good on the parallel bars and on the horizontal bar, so that means I can bring my team further as well.

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics

E: Being in the elite level of this competitive sport, in your opinion, what does it require from the athletes? What should they invest in terms of the physical, social, and mental aspects? What are the sacrifices?

MN: Sure, the professional athletes must avoid a lot of stuff and should follow the perfect discipline–thinking all the time if he is allowed to do this or that. Always think about the body: bear a good ratio while sleeping or having lunch. Many think that gymnasts eat much to maintain their weight. Actually, that’s not the case. Sometimes I even try to avoid lunch or have a snack, so as not to have a full belly during a training session. The athletes have a nutrition plan, although it’s very difficult to follow.

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics

E: How important is it for an athlete to maintain a good rapport with the coach?

MN: It’s very important without any doubt. You can only build a strong team if you have a good relationship with you trainer. From the very beginning I feel that I’m very lucky to have met some great people in my life, especially my coach Valery Belenki.

E: At what point can you say that you have reached everything in Gymnastics?

MN: I can now say that I have already achieved what I had desired — the 2 Olympic medals — and one of them is from an Overall Ranking, what else can I wish for? At this point in my athletic career, I feel that I don’t have much to lose. All that I’ll do next will bring much fun and I will surely enjoy those moments. I’d be very happy to experience Olympics once again. I don’t want to say that these Olympics aren’t my target or desire. No. They are my next big goal for my own sport story. I mean that even now I can say: I’m good with everything I have.

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics

E: Outside of the gymnastics world, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

MN: Oh, this is an extremely difficult question, there are so many that I can hardly pick someone. Let’s say David Beckham: He’s a very interesting person not only as a sport personality but as a guy who have created his life in a very good manner.

Marcel Nguyen Gymnastics


 
Let’s follow his journey as he ‘cartwheels’, ‘somersaults’ and ‘handsprings’ his way to the very heart of the Olympics. @themarcelnguyen

All images used with permission from 24passion GbR.

Dragon Boat World Athlete: Women in Dragon Boat – What drives them to keep on paddling?

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Chloe Gear, National Athlete – Auroras – Australian National Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Chloe Gear
BIRTHPLACE: Albury City, Australia
AGE: 20yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Drummer/Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Right
HEIGHT: 166cm
WEIGHT: 58kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldU24 Women, 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, BronzeU24 Mixed, 200m, 1000m 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Women, 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Mixed, 200m, 2000m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Open, 2000m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing State Championship, SilverPremier Women, 500m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing State Championship, SilverU24 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 2015


This very promising Dragon Boat World Athlete, Chloe Gear, was in her final year of high school when she got into Dragon Boating. It was through her mum’s corporate team in 2013 where she was trained as the team’s drummer back then.

The club’s coach had convinced Chloe to come back and drum for them in the next regatta and from that day on, she’s been drumming and paddling. She’s now a dedicated Aurora–a member of the Australian National Dragon Boat Team. She confessed that she has developed a substantial movie collection as she would spend her rest days couching on the sofa and do a movie marathon.

“It all happened at the right moment. After ten years of being a competitive dancer and also rehabilitating from an injury, I was looking for a new sport to pursue. My first club was the Albury/Wodonga Warriors and in 2015, I moved to Melbourne and became a Melbourne Flame.”, Chloe shared.

From a newbie drummer to becoming a Dragon Boat World Athlete, may her story inspire the younger paddlers and likewise allow the veterans to rekindle how they started (and how they eventually got immersed) in this wonderful world of dragon boat paddling.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

Q: How does team practice going during this period?

A: Team practice is going very well, we are making good progress and are where we need to be in preparation for our upcoming competitions.

Q: What major races are you preparing for now and how much do you train nowadays?

A: The Australian National team is preparing to compete at the 12th Asian Dragon Boat Championships while my club the Melbourne Flames is currently preparing for the Australian Dragon Boat Championships and the Club Crew World Championships all being held in Adelaide starting at the end of March. I currently train twice a day, six days a week. I have a cardio session in the morning being running or doing laps at my local pool for about an hour and then attend dragon boat sessions in the evening.

Q: Given the number of hours of practice per week, how do you keep up with it? Does it affect how you manage your sleeping patterns?

A: I’ve learnt to prioritize my training around my work and sleep and have been training regularly for just under two years now so my body is quite used to it. My training doesn’t affect my sleep too much, if anything I may be sleeping a little too much now! I always make sure I get a minimum of eight hours sleep every night to allow my body to rest and on rest days I will usually go get a relaxing massage and lay on the sofa resting.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

Q: How big is the Auroras now? How many are women?

A: The size of the Auroras depends on the campaign that we are preparing for, currently the Auroras is just a Premier team with half of the team consisting of women.

Q: In terms of funding, do you think that there is an equal treatment between the Men’s Team and the Women’s Team?

A: Sadly, in Australia, Dragon Boat Racing receives little funding, however most funding that is available is called an “athlete grant,’ which is open to any sport/age/gender, et cetera. At the end of the day the lucky recipient comes down to the quality of the application and the decision of the judging panel.

Q: Given the number of women in your team, is this a good number in your opinion? Should there be more?

A: As previously mentioned the size of the Auroras team depends on what campaign we are training for and this year half of the team consists of women. This year we have very strong women in our boat. I’m excited to see what they will achieve when we go out on the water.

Q: What do you think drives women to keep on with being at the elite level (National Team) of dragon boat?

A: In my personal opinion and experience I think it is the deep connection that women are able to create with each other that keeps driving us to be part of the National Team. Being an Aurora is being part of a family. We all support each other and want to see one another succeed. It’s very hard to just let that go when all the racing has come to an end so we keep coming back for more! A bit like a family reunion.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

Q: Can you share to us one thing that makes being with the Auroras so rewarding to you?

A: The most rewarding part of being an Aurora is not only the opportunities we get presented with but also getting to be part of such a supportive family. Not only have I been able to travel the world but I’ve been able to travel with some of my closest friends beside me and make lifelong friendships. Our success on the water stems from how we support and care for each other off the water and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have met some amazing people from around Australia.

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

A: The athlete whom I admire most is Australian Paralympic swimmer, Sam Bramham. I have been following Sam’s journey for the last few years now and have read his autobiography of his climb to success. He attended his first Olympic games in Athens, 2004 age 14, setting a new world record in his heat, only to blow his chances in the Final. Sam learnt the hard way that going into a race without rest and a complacent attitude distracts you from your race plan. However rather than letting this defeat him he learnt from his mistakes and has gone on to win gold in several other Olympics and will compete this year in Rio as one of Australia’s first Paralympic Tri-athletes. I find his passion and resilience inspiring.


As for our featured athlete, injury was not a hindrance to her dream of becoming a world champion. While this is coming from a passionate, budding athlete, it very much shows of a young woman’s strength, determination and resilience—such a beautiful and powerful attribute that we all paddlers must appreciate, and, yes, emulate.

In paddling, no matter how new or old the paddler or the team is, the passion for the sport must be kept alive; and just like paddling, one must dig deep with soul and might and in synchrony. If we’re able to possess these essential paddling tools, then shouldn’t it be also easy for us to be synchronised, in thought and in passion, in working together to provide equal opportunities for the women in our sport?


Headshots by Bing Ren

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Paddles & Microphones | Q&A: Mathilda D’silva Speaks to Eugephemisms

Mathilda D’silva is a former Singapore Idol finalist in the television franchise’s first season. She is known in the dragon boating/outrigger canoeing community, not just a paddler but as a songstress as well. Let’s get to know more about her paddling life, her story post Idol and what she thinks of the current state of the local music scene and the struggle of artists.

SINGapura

 Q: Where did you grow up? Was music a big role in your growing up years?

Mathilda: I’m actually a first generation Singaporean-born and bred here. Growing up was about listening to cassette tapes of the Carpenters (Karen Carpenter is the reason why I learnt to play the drums), Gladys Knight, ABBA… Apparently as a baby I would wake up and dance to the 70’s show Solid Gold…and loved commercials. Guess that’s why I worked in TV and Radio later on.

Q: What/Who influenced your musicality?

M: There an old cassette tape recorded by my father of me as a child being “interviewed” and singing my top hits like Twinkle Twinkle and the McDonald’s commercial. I was obsessed with the radio, tried taking it apart to hear the little people singing in it…Obsessed with music on TV. Michael Jackson was a huge influence, but I listened to such a range of music from R&B to pop to funk to soul to rock, even metal when I was a teenager. Everything old school makes me happy.

Q: Mathilda is such a beautiful name. Were you named after someone famous or an Aunt perhaps?

M: So here’s the story, my family wanted to call me Sarah. I was born in the year where the Commonwealth Games were held in Australia and the mascot was a giant boxing Kangaroo called Matilda. So…there was a bit of a tussle between Sarah and Matilda, the PR blitz won out and that’s where the name came. My mom’s boss was French, and his wife Mathilde was the one who suggested to put the “H” in Mathilda.

Q: We are happy to know that you have continued your passion in music up to this day. If we may borrow a line from James Ingram’s hit, “How do you keep the music playing?”

M: I’m so lucky to be surrounded by great musicians and event organisers such as Crazy Elephant, Highnotes Music, Jordan Wei, Esplanade and loads more who keep calling me for gigs. My rock band Dirty Dealers keeps the fun element of what I do while my R&B, jazz and funk outfits help me to articulate my feelings…and I got a lot of those!

Q: Do you have any regular gig at the moment? Where and which night can we catch you there?

M: I alternately do two Thursdays in a month with the Dirty Dealers at Crazy Elephant. So if you love blues rock and metal, that’s for you. I’ve got a massive event happening at the Esplanade on the 6th December. More details HERE.

Q: Which venue in Singapore is your most ‘favourite stage’ to perform? Why so?

M: There’s a line in “Song For You”– I’ve acted out my life in stages, with 10,000 people watching. I love singing that song because its really my life. I have a soft spot for the Mediacorp TV Theatre, we are shifting soon but that was where Singapore Idol was filmed and my career in the industry took off from there. Sometimes during lunch time I’d sit in the empty studio as the staging hands set up for other shows and I recall those moments on TV. This year I managed to reprise the stage again…with an audience full of British Dragons, German Dragons and American Dragons Outrigger folks cheering me on!

Q: On a scale of 1-10, can you rate the current struggle of local artists? (1 being the toughest) How difficult is it now to produce a ‘local’ album given the popularity of American pop music and K-Pop to Singaporeans?

M: I’d say, 5 over 10; but before Social Media, it was just 1. Nowadays, if artistes want to be popular, they have to put in the leg work. Even with all my connections on radio, TV and the recording industry, I can honestly say it’s tough. It’s tough everywhere for musicians to become a huge hit because the massive financial marketing machine of A&R (Artists and Repertoir Departments) doesn’t exist anymore. In fact, I gave my first album away because I wasn’t interested in getting into the CD sales game. I’ve always said, live performances is where it’s at. Music is about winning hearts, one person at a time, local or otherwise.

Mathilda D'silva

Q: Do you want to share your fearless personal view of what needs to be done?

M: I work to fund my musical ideas. A famous judge on Singapore Idol told me that my voice was common, Singapore wasn’t interested in another Indian woman singing R&B, it would be boring blah blah blah. One half of me is really sensitive about being shot down constantly- that’s what happens in reality TV land where your face is in the New Paper every week, fashion stylists who went on air to ridicule my clothes and hair…Thankfully the other half of me says “I don’t care what you think” but with a few more cuss words in there. I’ve sung for kings and for the strangers in the street. Whatever I wanted to do, I just go out and do it. Sitting and waiting for someone to deem me worthy for a chance isn’t my style.  That’s the dragon boater in me, focus up to the finish line and then Charge!

Paddling Life

Q: When did you start Dragon boating/Outrigger canoeing?

M: I started getting into dragon boat end of 2009, stepping into the Glory days of the German Dragons Singapore (GDS) and stayed for a few years with the team. I never had a coach in my life who cared so much about my improvement, or teammates who I love so intensely despite them having left Singapore. So many memories of races, people are who I miss most. I moved from a paddler into GDS Exco as Team Affairs, leading an amazing marketing team to create some of the best and most memorable GDS parties in the history of expat dragon boating. I miss that crazy crew.

Just started Outrigger Canoe (OC) last year with the American Dragons and taught by one of the great American Dragons Captains, Tharin Walker, who laughed at my swimming abilities (which are low to none). 6 years on and I’m still in love with paddling.

Q: What benefits do you get from each sport?

M: Dragon boating is painful and tough. It will make every joint ache and then some. But the teamwork that you get from that sport is just irreplaceable. OC is a thinking paddler’s sport…I guess that’s where the older dragon boaters go out to pasture. It’s amazing and crazy though, open ocean, long distances, 6 people battling against mother nature. I’m still in awe.

Q: We understand that you are quite committed in your full-time job as Producer/Social Media Manager at MediaCorp. Do you paddle for leisure or competitive? How often do you go for training nowadays?

M: Sometimes I’m so tired I can’t stand. Between my work in TV, social media, music, paddling and everything else I do…I can’t breathe. But it’s a great life I have with amazing friends in it. I do what I love, how many people can say that?

Q: How long have you been paddling? Being involved in the paddling community for a number of years now, in your opinion, how did it evolved since?

M: Dragon boat has become a fully organised machine where expat teams are so elevated sports-wise with National Coaches, endurance training on more days…It’s hard to have an edge and keep it. The sport has also been losing a lot of the old guard, my good friends from all the different teams…some who helped to set up the teams in the first place. There’s so much history between all the expat teams, I’d hate to see those epic moments disappearing. One thing I’m proud of…is the segment now within Dragon Divas Race called the Breast Cancer Awareness race that I proposed as part of Anne and Melanie’s long running successful Dragon Divas event. With Anne’s recovery from cancer and my mother’s 4 time cancer bout…I am so glad to see this tradition of paddling with survivors still continues today.

Every single person, even the weirdos or the social butterflies who paddle to get dates…everyone has a place in the team.

Q: In terms of participation, are both sports moving into progression or are we looking at the same things as what we have had, say, three years ago?

M: I know I’m going to get into trouble for saying this but let’s be completely honest about this OC-Dragon Boat poaching business. For many years because I was in EXCO I was against my team members doing OC for fear of losing them. Just as it works in a romantic relationship, people stay when they feel a need to stay. I don’t think banning dragon boaters will prevent them from doing OC. Expat team dragon boaters and like wild horses, they will gallop where they please. Which is why I am very supportive of teams such as AustCham and American Dragons having their own OC chapter. It’s hard to have OC and Dragon Boat offered in one team because of logistics; but it’s a good way to keep your  people.

Q: Tell us about your experience as a former EXCO of your team. What was your formula of keeping the fun and the team together?

M: As a former Team Affairs head of German Dragons Singapore who looks after everything from: Inter-team relations, Events, Marketing, Sponsorship, International Dragon Boat Community Representative, Boracay Race Representative, Newbies, Merchandise, Social Media and Website–this is a full time job and that’s not for someone who’s looking to be Mr/Miss Popular. This is a job for a leader who has no problem getting into the trenches and inspiring a management team to create a “feeling of belongingness” to everyone in a team. I’m so blessed that I had amazing teammates whom I’ve worked with in my tenure…from my BBQ Master to my Party B*tch, they got pushed harder (even harder than an A-boat in Singapore River Regatta) and delivered. Always get the right people for the right roles. Every single person, even the weirdos or the social butterflies who paddle to get dates…everyone has a place in the team. Give people a sense of belongingness and utilise all your soft skills to make them feel welcomed.


Enjoy a romantic musical afternoon with Mathilda D’silva, on 6th December, 3pm at the Esplanade. It’s a 1,000-seater venue, so no worries about the seating setup. Come one, come all. Admission is absolutely FREE!

Sing-along: Evergreen Favourites with Mathilda D’Silva
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Date: 6 December 2015 (Sunday)
Time: 3pm – 4.15pm (75 minutes)

More information about Esplanade’s Featured Musicians.
 
*This interview has been edited and condensed
Photo Credit: Mathilda D’silva’s Facebook Page