SEA Games: Singapore bag first-ever medal, a silver, in men's lightweight coxless four

Singapore's men's lightweight coxless four team of (from left) Nadzrie Hyckell Hamazah, Lee Zong Han, Pek Hong Kiat and Syahir Ezekiel Rafaee celebrating after coming in second in the 1,000m event on June 14, 2015. -- ST PHOTO:&nb
Singapore's men's lightweight coxless four team of (from left) Nadzrie Hyckell Hamazah, Lee Zong Han, Pek Hong Kiat and Syahir Ezekiel Rafaee celebrating after coming in second in the 1,000m event on June 14, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - The Republic's men's lightweight coxless four clinched a silver in the SEA Games 1,000m event with a time of 3min 5.25sec on Sunday morning.

The team consisted of Syahir Ezekiel Rafaee, Pek Hong Kiat, Lee Zong Han and Nadzrie Hyckell Hamazah.

This is the first time Singapore has managed to get a medal in the event.

Ahead of the Singapore team were the Indonesians (3:02.28). Vietnam were third in (3:06.60).

Said Syahir: "We didn't meet our expected gold but we are very happy with our silver medal. In the beginning, one of my teammates caught a very bad stroke and that caused us to be last. But after the 500m, we caught up a lot and towards the end, we were so hungry to win and managed to pull through to win."

His sister, Sayidah, the 2,000m gold medallist in 2013, also managed a podium finish on Sunday. Racing in the lightweight women's single sculls 1,000m for the first time, Sayidah, who attained a bronze, said: "I am really pleased with my race. I pushed really hard. I have never pushed so hard before. I couldn't stand after that, it was really a good feeling. It was a very close race but I left the boat with no regrets.

"I think I would have done better in the 2,000m race (which was not offered these Games) as I am more of an endurance athlete but it was a very good experience, different training, having more power and aggression."

She completed the race in 3min 59.01sec, just 0.08sec behind her nearest competitor Daimoi Maryam Makdalena of Indonesia. The gold went to Phuttharaksa Neegree of Thailand (3:55.27).

Asked about how they felt being able to win medals together at the Games, a proud Syahir said: "I am really proud to be in the same Games as her (Sayidah) and it is a dream come true to be winning medals alongside with her. It is emotional as well to know that the Sayisah siblings can finally shine! I know she can do better but I am sure she did her best this time."

Teammates Joanna Chan and Joan Poh also attained a bronze in the women's pair 1,000m, finishing the race with a time of 3min 41.79sec.

A beaming Joan, who only started the sport six months ago and only had four months to row together with her partner, said: "Being able to come back with a podium finish is unbelievable for me. I really hope from our result, more Singaporeans will get to know this sport. It is so dynamic, requires a lot of technique, but many people confuse us with dragonboat, traditional boat racing and canoe/kayaking."

The results left Singapore Rowing Association vice-president K. Gopalakrishnan purring, despite the fact that the hosts failed to match their 2013 performance with a gold: "It is a much better performance than 2013.

"The competing nations are also doing their best. In fact, our men's fours achieving a silver is a very remarkable performance, it shows their dedication in training. Their medal is a first silver in men's event in history!"

With the SEA Games coming a close for the rowers, Sayidah already has her eye on a bigger competition, saying: "I am currently trying out for the Olympics this year, the qualifications are in April.

"I am so happy knowing that Singaporeans will always be pushing me, wanting me to be successful in my sport. I always remind my teammates and juniors that whether you continue with rowing or not, go spread the word of how rowing as shaped you as a person."

Gopalakrishnan added: "We will continue with our training and talent identification. We want to create more awareness of this sport. Right now, it is a big challenge as they have to go to a particular venue to train. We also want to improve our existing rowers and send them to other trainings and events and enhance these trainings. The new step we are looking forward to is to improve their existing techniques."

chongcjy@sph.com.sg

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