Getting kids into canoeing

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (second from left), guest of honour at the Singapore Canoe Marathon, testing out a Junior K4 boat at Marina Reservoir with national canoeists (from left) Stephenie Chen, Suzanne Seah and Sarah Chen - all gold medallists at last year's SEA Games.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

As the national team continue to shine, the Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF) aims to unearth the next generation of paddlers who can make a splash for the fast-growing sport.

It hopes to steer kayaking into primary schools as a co-curricular activity (CCA) amid growing interest in its own Kid-in-a-Kayak programme.

The SCF has spent close to $50,000 on specially designed equipment for the initiative. Purchased from Hungary, the junior kayaks have foot-rests and shorter paddles with smaller blades to allow for better stability and more emphasis on technique.

In a kayak, the paddler is seated and uses a two-bladed paddle, while in a canoe, he or she is kneeling on one knee with a single-blade paddle.

The 42 participants in the scheme, who range in age from seven to 12, train on weekends at MacRitchie Reservoir.

SCF vice-president Francis Ng said: "We are one of the first Asian countries to invest in special kayaks for children, which reduces the risk of shoulder injuries and focuses on getting their technique right first.

"We will be speaking to the relevant authorities about introducing the sport as a primary school CCA, not just to grow the talent pool but also as a form of healthy living."

Yesterday, all the Kid-in-a-Kayak enlistees competed in the Singapore Canoe Marathon which - in its 14th edition - featured an Under-12 category for the first time.

Henry Park Primary School's Matthew Ng came out tops for the boys, while Singapore Chinese Girls' School's Tan Lee-Ann, both 11, was first among the girls in the waters off the Sports Hub in Kallang.

The SCF hopes to increase its kids' pool to about 70 this year in order to build a sustainable long-term pathway to the senior level.

Singapore canoeists collected a record seven-gold haul at the SEA Games on home soil last June, going on to clinch a hat-trick of bronzes at the Asian Canoe Sprint Championships in November.

National head coach Balazs Babella said: "We have a good core group of national canoeists so now, it's about getting more kids hooked on the sport.

"Using junior kayaks to work on their technique, we believe they can make a better transition into canoes once they are ready."

The Singapore Canoe Marathon drew a record 700 competitors from the ages of seven to 60.

Participants paddled under clear skies and across iconic landmarks such as the Singapore Flyer for distances of between 4km and 28km.

Also in action were 40 para-canoeists who have benefited from free weekly training under SCF's para-canoe development scheme.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu joined in the fun, paddling in a Junior K4 boat with SEA Games gold medallists Stephenie Chen, Suzanne Seah and Sarah Chen.

Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and National Development) and SCF adviser Desmond Lee flagged off the main races before having a go in a Para-canoe K1.

Hong Kong's Mok Yuen Fung won the 28km men's senior K1 race. The women's title went to Singaporean Annabelle Ng.

This article was first published on January 18, 2016.
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