deaf dragons

The Deaf Dragons made history by fielding 10 deaf paddlers with a hearing steerer and drummer. They clinched fourth place in the DBS Marina Regatta invitationals. (Photo 2 © of Edwin Ong. Courtesy of Ryan Ng)


vision 2030 live better through sports

Red Sports: What are some of the difficulties you faced doing this sport? Physically? Mentally? Socially?
Ameliana Yap: One main challenge I faced from the start was my ability to balance. My condition has affected my balancing and I need time negotiating down uneven slopes, pontoons and in the boat. But with the help of my coaches and teammates, this has not been a problem, as they would support me to ensure I do not fall.

It is at times also a little confusing when our coach is communicating with us. Sometimes it is difficult to explain corrections to us and even through demonstrations, at times, we still do not understand and have to get them to tell us what’s the difference exactly.

It’s also been a long time since I have been sporty. Especially upon losing my hearing and balance, I stopped trying to do much sports. But dragon boating has helped me and slowly I am trying to improve my fitness level and stamina.

Alfred Yeo: I have no issues of socializing because I am always easy going and funny. I am already appointed as the captain. Of course, it is very physically and mentally demanding. One would want to give up after paddling for a long distance.

I learnt to make use of right paddling techniques so that I would not get exhausted rapidly. The difficulty in the initial training was to get good coordination of the team members. We started to learn to rely on our eyes to look at the pacers sitting in the front to synchronize properly and accordingly.

Red Sports: What was the reaction of your friends and family?
Ameliana Yap: There have been positive and negative responses to me joining dragon boat. Many were pleased to hear I am back being the usual sporty self and picking my life up. There has been a lot of encouragement and pride about me dragon boating and not seeing my disabilities.

However, there are also quite a couple of people who find it crazy that I am dragon boating instead of using my weekends to rest and stay away from the sun. Initially too, I had family and friends who felt it is impossible for me to dragon boat because I cannot balance and am deaf. Most of them, upon seeing me do it to prove I can, have become very supportive.

Alfred Yeo: My family was surprised that I started to get involved in the dragon boat. They would complain that I got tanned every time I came home from training.

My friends expressed shock and surprise because I do not appear to be a sporty person. After they learn that I am very serious about dragon boating, they are able to learn many things that I am able to explain to them about the sport and share my race experiences, especially during the DBS Marina Regatta that we took part in on May 18, 19 and 24.

Red Sports: As a result of this dragon boat experience, what has been a highlight for you?
Ameliana Yap: Through joining Deaf Dragons, the highlight would be regaining my confidence and returning to my old self. I am cheerful and willing to try new things out again, pushing my limits. Not worrying so much about my disabilities and giving everything a shot.

The coaches and team members are the reason where I am today because they believed in me and are very encouraging. Dragon boating with Deaf Dragons also allowed me to have the chance to help other disabilities learn the sport, which is something very meaningful to me.

Alfred Yeo: We had a boatful of 10 deaf paddlers and two hearing crews – steerer and drummer – in the DBS Marina Regatta 12-crew races. This has been a great highlight. Nothing is really impossible. Hopefully we can have a deaf steerer one day. The trainings and real races taught me to be humble and determined.