National canoeist Lim Yuan Yin enjoyed a fruitful debut at the Asian Canoe Sprint Championships yesterday, by winning the Republic's first medal at the biennial meet in 12 years.
The Singaporean's bronze medal in the C1 500m event in Palembang was the Republic's first podium finish since the 2003 edition of the competition, when Lim Ling Min and Tong Lee Ling also won a bronze in the women's K2 200m in Bhopal, India. It is also the Republic's first medal in the canoeing discipline at the meet.
In a nine-boat final, the 23-year-old clocked 2min 27.291sec to finish behind winner Truong Thi Phuong of Vietnam (2:20.376) and Fatemah Karamjani of Iran (2:26.046).
Lim, a Republic Polytechnic graduate, said: "I had no expectations of a medal coming into these championships. My main aim was just to test myself against Asian athletes.
"The competitors were world-class athletes. It almost felt like the story of David and Goliath, as I was physically disadvantaged compared to some of them."
Other members of the team are SEA Games gold medallists Brandon Ooi, Bill Lee, Lucas Teo, Geraldine Lee, Sarah Chen, Suzanne Seah and Stephenie Chen.
Along with fellow debutants Jarrett Ng (K4 1,000m) and Hadrian Ro (C1 1,000m and 200m), Lim is one of the least experienced members of the 16-strong squad. The former dragon boater switched to canoeing only last year and had missed out on qualifying for June's SEA Games, where Singapore won a record seven golds at home.
The continental meet also serves as an Olympic qualifier. But with only the winner of each class guaranteed a spot in the Rio de Janeiro Games next year, Singapore's paddlers stand a slim chance to make it through, as they would have to topple Asian giants such as China, Uzbekistan, Iran and Kazakhstan.
Said national canoeing coach Wang Chao: "The competition was stiff, I had predicted a 10 per cent chance of a medal for her (but) she has exceeded my expectations.
"Nonetheless, a bronze medal does not overlook the fact that the Singapore team still has to put in more work and effort to level but we will strive to be a powerhouse first in Asia, followed by the world.
"She (Lim) will have to improve on her canoe technique and physical capabilities. Through her performance, she proved that she has the potential to be groomed into a world-class canoeist."
And while qualifying for the Olympics remains a long shot, Lim has narrowed the gap between the Republic and the cream of the continent. The competition started on Wednesday and ends tomorrow but strong headwinds in the Indonesian city have made it harder to set personal bests.
Yesterday, Stephenie Chen (fifth in the K1 500m) matched her 2013 performance while the quartet of Geraldine Lee, Annabelle Ng, Sarah Chen and Seah finished fourth in the K4 500m.