Saiyidah blows her chance for a medal

Saiyidah blows her chance for a medal
Singapore's rower Saiyidah Aisyah Mohammed Rafa'ee (right) competing in the Lightweight Women's Single Sculls Heat 1 at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea on 21 September 2014.

Last December, she won the hearts of Singaporeans when she cried in joy and flashed her grin after winning her SEA Games rowing gold in Myanmar.

Yesterday, Saiyidah Aisyah was again wiping tears away from her eyes, albeit laughing ironically, as she assessed her performance at the Asian Games after finishing last in her final.

And she was brutally honest: "I was not hungry enough, that's why I lost."

While she improved on her heats' timing of 8min 24.86sec on Sunday to clock 8:17.84 in yesterday's women's lightweight single sculls 2,000m final, she did far better at the SEA Games with her winning time of 8:08.94.

The 26-year-old missed out on a great chance of landing a first-ever rowing medal for Singapore at the Asiad, coming in fourth out of four competitors at the Chungju Tangeum Lake Rowing Center.

South Korea's Ji Yoo Jin eventually won at a canter, clinching gold in 8:01.00. Hong Kong's Lee Ka Mun was second in 8:06.60 while Iranian rower Abbasiazad clinched bronze in 8:10.53.

Despite coming in third during Sunday's heats, which featured all her final competitors, Saiyidah fell way behind early in the race and could not even get close to third-placed veteran Abbasiazad.

"I thought I could maintain my strokes and wait for my rivals to tire, just like what happened at the SEA Games," she said ruefully.

"That was a wrong move; my rivals pulled away, they had much more desire to win than I did."

Saiyidah admitted that she underestimated the mental strength of her opponents, thinking that 30-year-old Abbasiazad would be beatable.

"I started off well, and had the lead over Soulmaz but she left me in the dust at the midway point," she said.

"I couldn't do much to close the gap after that.

"This is a bitter lesson. I'm not going to ever finish last in a race again. If I had just one wish now, I would want to redo the race again."

This article was first published on Sep 26, 2014.
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