Rowing: Saiyidah looking for cool places to train

Rower Saiyidah Aisyah (right) and boccia player Nurulasyiqah Taha were among six athletes honoured for their sporting achievements.
Rower Saiyidah Aisyah (right) and boccia player Nurulasyiqah Taha were among six athletes honoured for their sporting achievements.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

A creature of the water, it is Saiyidah Aisyah's element and fresh from being Singapore's first rower at the Olympics, she wants to upgrade her game by training in the snow.

Used to training and competing in warmer climes, the 28-year-old is currently planning a training stint in either New York or Philadelphia during winter.

Details have not been confirmed yet, as Saiyidah told The Straits Times. Her coach, Australian Alan Bennett, is still getting in touch with various boat clubs in the United States to find out more about their training plans.

She hopes to leave for the US at the end of the month, before returning to Sydney, where she has been based for the last three years, at the end of this year.

Saiyidah said: "The Rio Olympics have just ended and it's another four years to the next one, so I want to keep my motivation by adding a bit of spice to my training.

"I want to do some winter training in the US for a change in environment, because I've been training in Sydney for three years and I thought I needed something new and different before going back to Sydney for training."

On the dramatic change of training environment, Saiyidah explained: "Training in the warm weather will be more beneficial for me, but I want to step out of my comfort zone and try something different and push myself.

"I'm not the kind of person who always looks for the easy option; I like to challenge myself and push myself beyond my limits.

"Besides, I always complain when it's hot, so maybe when I experience the cold, I'll be grateful to be in a hot and humid environment when the time comes."

She is currently considering three options: the Penn AC Rowing Association and Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, and the Saratoga Rowing Association in New York, where she trained before Rio.

"I really enjoyed the rowing culture in New York; there's a lot to learn and maybe there could be opportunities to do some volunteer coaching there as well.

"And Philadelphia is known for its rowing - I've visited the famous Boathouse Row where all the rowing clubs are located and met the coaches there. One of the Olympic rowers from Nigeria (Chierika Ukogu) who raced in my event trains there as well."

Ukogu was 20th out of 32 competitors in the women's singles sculls event in Rio, three places above Saiyidah's 23rd-place finish.

Although Saiyidah has not decided which rowing club she will join in the US, the 2013 SEA Games champion is clear on what she wants from her stint, as she begins preparing for next year's world rowing championships in Florida and the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

"I'm looking for a good training partner and a variety in training programmes," she said. "It'll be cold (in the US), so I'm hoping to do some cross-country skiing.

"Cross-country skiing is a full-body workout, which is what rowing is as well, and it's good for training cardio and endurance too.

"For now, the focus is back on doing long-distance training and not so much race-based yet. So I'm hoping to work on getting my fitness back and on the technical aspects of rowing, like perfecting my strokes."

But bettering her rowing technique is not the only thing Saiyidah hopes to get out of her US training stint. Beyond individual improvement, she also wants to pick up ideas on outreach programmes that she can pass on to the Singapore rowing community.

She said: "When I was training at the Saratoga Rowing Association in New York, they had community-based summer camps for kids.

"I thought the association had very good learn-to-row outreach programmes for their younger generation, and I want to learn more and hopefully bring it back to Singapore."

Saiyidah and five of Singapore's Paralympians - track and field athletes Diroy Noordin, Suhairi Suhani, Norsilawati Sa'at, archer Syahidah Alim and boccia player Nurulasyiqah Taha - were honoured by Mendaki yesterday for their sporting achievements.

The six athletes were each presented Mendaki's Special Achievement Award for Excellence (Non-Academic) by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the presentation ceremony yesterday.

The award, usually presented to students aged 12 to 18, was this year extended to the athletes for their achievements at the Rio Games.

The athletes each received a $1,000 cheque and a certificate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Saiyidah looking for cool places to train'. Print Edition | Subscribe