SEA Games: Rowing for the sport's future

SEA Games: Rowing for the sport's future
Singapore's Saiyidah Aisyah Mohamed Rafa'ee shedding teras of joy after winning the gold medal in rowing's lightweight single sculls category at Ngalaik dam during the 27th SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on 17 December 2013.

NAYPYIDAW- The race which rower Saiyidah Aisyah trains so hard for is already a lonesome slog - ploughing through 2,000m of water for more than eight minutes.

But it does not even begin to paint the full picture of the struggle rowing's sole representative in a Singapore contingent of 308 athletes went through. Or how the Republic's first SEA Games champion in this sport since 1997 carried on pushing herself despite less than ideal support.

Factor in all that and then it is easy to understand why Saiyidah could not fight back her tears when she won the 2,000m women's lightweight single sculls at the Ngalike Dam on Tuesday.

"My No.1 purpose for winning a SEA Games gold is to raise the profile of rowing in Singapore," the 25-year-old student development manager with Ngee Ann Polytechnic told The Straits Times a day after her win.

Her dedication to her sport and perseverance had seen her become an instant heroine online, with many labelling her an inspirational figure.

For instance, Tuesday's breaking news story on her exhilarating, come-from-behind golden triumph on The Straits Times' website garnered 3,723 Facebook shares and 412 tweets on Twitter by 9pm last night.

Saiyidah admitted that she has not read any of the online plaudits yet, but said that she is grateful for all the congratulatory messages.

And, while netizens have slammed the lack of funding for Saiyidah, the rower said that her goal is much bigger than money or recognition.

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