Collective spirit the motivation

Former national gymnasts, including Olympian Lim Heem Wei (in white cap), will take part in Singapore's Finest Paddle-off at the DBS Marina Regatta today.
Former national gymnasts, including Olympian Lim Heem Wei (in white cap), will take part in Singapore's Finest Paddle-off at the DBS Marina Regatta today.PHOTO: DBS MARINA REGATTA

When you think of gymnasts, their grace and elegance during a performance may come to mind. But today, a team of former national gymnasts will be paddling their hearts out on the waters of Marina Bay, their arms geared to explosive movements.

The former athletes, inclduing Lim Heem Wei, Hoe Wah Toon, Josiah Tan, Michelle Teo and Nabilah Jufrie will be leaving their comfort zones behind when they take part in a new event called Singapore's Finest Paddle-off at the DBS Marina Regatta.

The 200m dragon boat race for current or past national athletes will make its debut along with two other race categories - Society Gladiators (for participants involved in Singapore-based Voluntary Welfare Organisations or Non-Governmental Organisations) and Prime Warriors (for participants above 45 years old).

The event will be the first time the former Singapore Gymnastics members are getting back together again to compete, albeit in an entirely new sport.

Lim, who represented Singapore in the 2012 London Olympics and retired in 2014, said: "It's something very light-hearted and fun. I'm going there with people I grew up with.

"Although we have all retired from the sport, there's some familiarity and we thought it'd be a fun event to do together."

They had their first and only training session last week. Lim said with a laugh: "When we came out of the boat, we realised we hadn't capsized. That was already an achievement unlocked.

"(Collectively) we are land-people so we didn't know much about water sports and everyone was really scared of the water. The biggest difference for us is that this was a team sport.

"In our own gym training, it's very individual-based and we don't affect others. On the boat we realise if we want to stop or rest, we can't or it'll disrupt the others so we've to just keep going.

"What is similar is that we all want to win. When we're tired or feel like dying, we still want to go for it."

Also participating in the Regatta, held this and next weekend, are the Singapore men's and women's dragon boat teams. They will go up against Hong Kong and Indonesia in the International Premier Open and International Premier Women's categories respectively.

Women's captain Chua Jiamin said: "We are definitely feeling the pressure to perform, considering the fact that we are racing in Singapore, our home ground and hence many eyes will be on us.

"But I believe that my team are prepared both physically and mentally for this event. It will be a good experience for the team to pit ourselves against strong competitors."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Collective spirit the motivation'. Print Edition | Subscribe