Contributed by Fanny Tham
The Singapore Dragon Boat community will come together to remember the five national dragon boaters who lost their lives in a tragic accident in Cambodia two years ago.
The memorial service will take place during the 27th Singapore River Regatta on 21st and 22nd November 2009. A memorial wall will be set up for the public to pen their thoughts and leave their photos as a sign of respect and remembrance for the National athletes.
The tragedy happened on 23rd November 2007 during Cambodia’s Annual Water Festival River Races. The boat, carrying 22 men, capsized as they were rowing back to the starting line after completing the 1.5-km Cambodia-Asean Traditional Boat Race. Rescue boats were immediately deployed, but five members of the team could not be found.
After an extensive search, the bodies of the five members were retrieved from the water. The deaths of Chee Wei Cheng, Jeremy Goh Tze Xiong, Stephen Loh Soon Ann, Poh Boon San and Reuben Kee En Rui came as a tragic loss not only for the dragon boat community, but for the entire nation.
The initiative for the memorial wall was started by the committee board of the Singapore Dragon Boat Association. Said Mr Ang Chin Leng, team manager of the National Team and Vice-President of the Association: "The accident has impacted the team in many ways. The entire nation has cried and mourned together with us. It has been two years and this is the best time, during the largest dragon boat event, to remember them."
The 27th Singapore River Regatta looks set to be the biggest as the number of registered competitors hits more than 3,500. Guest-of-honour, Mr Teo Ser Luck, will grace the event on 22nd November 2009 at 4pm. He will also be penning his remembrance on the memorial wall.
The River Regatta is including a new race for competitors who are 55 years and above. Called the Grand Dragon Race, this is the first time ever in Singapore that a race is limited exclusively for active agers.
Dragon boating is gaining more sports participation in recent years after a spruce of clubs formed by schools, corporate organizations and community clubs. While the sport is predominantly dominated by active men and women between 21 to 30 years of age, it has witnessed a sharp increase in the participation for the above-40s. This prompted the inclusion of a veterans-category for local dragon boat races meant for competitors who are at least 40 years old.
Said Mr Ang: "Dragon boat is a sport meant for all. It not only trains the body, but it also builds up focus, endurance and teamwork. Age is never a matter for dragon boat. What matters is the attitude and the sportsmanship. You can dragon boat, or do any sport, for as long as you want and this is the message we want to share with the community."
Date: 21st & 22nd November 2009
Event: 27th Singapore River Regatta 2009
Main Organizer: Singapore Dragon Boat Association
Organizers: People's Association and the Civil Service Club
Venue: Singapore River between Elgin Bridge and Cavenagh Bridge