Contributed by Tan Joe-sie
Flying the Singapore flag high at prize presentation. (Photo 1 © Tan Joe-sie)
Czech Republic, Saturday, August 29, 2009 – The Singapore Junior Dragon Boat Team, comprising 45 National Junior College (NJC) and 4 Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) students won 4 golds, 3 silvers and 1 bronze to clinch the World Junior Dragon Boat Champion title in the recently concluded 9th World Dragon Boat Racing Championship held at Racice, Prague, Czech Republic from 26th to 29th August.
In order to give our team the maximum amount of time to prepare for their upcoming examinations, we arrived in Prague only a day before the start of the races and managed only 1 short practice session at Racice.
Poorly rested and not yet acclimatised, we had a disastrous first day of competition (26th August) in the 2,000 m races. Though we won a silver medal and a bronze medal for the Junior Women 2,000m and Junior Open 2,000m races respectively, we were very disappointed with our performance particularly with coming in 5th place in the Junior Mixed 2,000 race.
It was fortunate for us that 2,000m races would not contribute any points towards the overall challenge title because turnings were involved in 2,000m races and only straight-course races (i.e. 1,000m, 200m and 500m) would contribute points.
Our team responded with greater focus, discipline and hunger the following day (27 August), but luck was against us when we came in a very disappointing 5th placing yet again in the Junior Open 1,000m event final where the 6 boats came within 0.7 of a second, a close finish, the likes of which we had never seen before in 1,000m races back in Singapore.
Everyone in our Junior Open squad gave their very best, but we only managed a 5th placing. Before our arrival in Prague, we knew little about our opponents. We then began to realise how tough our competition was.
However, our fortune turned in the afternoon when we won the Junior Mixed 1,000m event. There was a strong wave of national pride and emotions, as we sang our national anthem passionately as our Singapore flag was hoisted to the top of the flag pole. This was the first time Singapore had taken part and won a gold medal in the World Dragon Boat Racing Championship. We were 1 point behind Poland and 1 ahead of defending champion Germany for the overall challenge title after this day.
Riding on the wave of renewed belief and confidence, our team went on to win 2 golds and 1 silver in 3 events on the 3rd day (28th August) – the Junior Mixed 200m, the Junior Open 200m and the Junior Women 200m respectively.
Our team's tough training regime and good physical conditioning really did us a big favour, as the number of races (2 to 3 rounds of races per event) and the hot weather took their toll on our opponents. We gained a massive 30 points and had a 15-point lead over Germany and 19-point lead over Poland after this day.
Needing only 8 points to win the overall title, we decided to focus on the Junior Open 500m and Junior Women 500m events on the final day (29th August) and send mainly our reserves and younger (Sec 3 and Sec 4) members for the Junior Mixed 500m.
Though our Junior Open and Junior Women squads met with very stiff opposition to emerge only 4th and 2nd respectively, we secured enough points to win the overall title before the final event, the Junior Mixed 500m event.
However, the whole championship took yet another twist when our Junior Mixed 500m squad making up of mainly reserves and younger, less experienced members, exceeded all expectations and shocked the sporting elite by storming to victory in the final.
There could not have been a better way to end the championship than by being able to sing our nation anthem again before being presented the overall challenge trophy. The atmosphere was awe-inspiring and electrifying with our entire team singing the nation anthem at the top of their voices. We are the World Junior Dragon Boat Champions.
We hope that we have managed to prove to all Singaporeans that though we may be a small country with few resources, we are capable of great things if we are united, disciplined, tough and hungry. Cheers to our beloved Singapore!
9th World Dragon Boat Racing Championship
Junior Divisional Nation Cup
1st: Singapore 69 points
2nd: Germany 49 points
3rd: Canada 45 points
4th: China 37 points (beat Poland in 500m performance)
5th: Poland 37 points
Singapore finished first in Lane 4 in the Junior Open 200m ahead of Russia in Lane 3 and Germany in Lane 5. (Photo 2 © Tan Joe-sie)
Singapore’s Junior Mixed 200m team edges ahead in Lane 3 just before China in Lane 2. (Photo 3 © Tan Joe-sie)
Singapore’s junior youth team with the World Junior Dragon boat trophy. (Photo 4 © Tan Joe-sie)
Singapore with Germany and China at the podium of the Junior Mixed 500m. (Photo 5 © Tan Joe-sie)
Team manager Mr Yong Yuen Cheng and coach Mr Nasiman with the World Junior Dragon Boat trophies. (Photo 6 © Tan Joe-sie)