Rowing: S'pore Rowing Association's new leadership aims to win medals at 2029 SEA Games, grow the sport

Singapore Rowing Association president Dato Paul Supramaniam (centre) with vice-presidents Toh Han Chong (left) and Steve Davies. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Rowing Association (SRA) has a new leadership after vice-president Paul Supramaniam was elected unopposed as the association's president at its annual general meeting on Saturday.

Supramaniam, who had served as SRA's vice-president since the start of this year and will lead a team of 13 members, outlined plans for his four-year term that include enhancing the association's elite programme to win medals at the 2029 SEA Games in Singapore.

The last time Singapore won medals at the biennial meet was at the 2015 edition on home soil, where the Republic's rowers bagged a silver and three bronzes.

The 65-year-old, who takes over the top post from K. Gopalakrishnan, acknowledged that it will not be easy, pointing to challenges such as the rowers having to juggle their sporting commitments with their full-time jobs.

He said that the association will be trying to find ways to engage with its athletes' employers over the possibility of more flexible schedules.

He said: "We're competing against countries who have almost full-time rowers. Against backdrop, to win any medals is a huge achievement."

Vice-president Steve Davies, who is also the head of training and athlete support and development, added that the association hopes to get a full-time coach with the right expertise to train the rowers.

He said: "We're a maritime nation, we should do well and similarly I've seen countries like Vietnam who've come from nowhere to being a competitive force within Asian rowing.

"We need to build a constantly regenerating team of young athletes who can represent our country."

Also high on Supramaniam's agenda is growing the pool of rowers in Singapore.

The lawyer estimated that there are about 200 rowers currently and hopes that will increase to a thousand in the next four years.

Key to this is the introduction of outreach programmes for various groups of people from students to seniors and persons with disabilities as part of the team's plans to make the sport inclusive.

The association will also be looking at developing coastal rowing, which is set to be featured at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

National rower Joan Poh, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, believes that there will be a more level playing field for Singapore to succeed in this new discipline.

She cited the example of national sailors Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low, who made history in Tokyo by becoming the first Singaporean sailors to qualify for the medal race in the women's 49erFX class, which was introduced to the Olympics in 2016.

She said: "With coastal rowing, we can do the same. If we really look into this and have a proper structure, I think we really have a shot."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.