Paddling at any age
Active agers join youth in a dragon boat race.
BY: Eleanor Yap
One might think that dragon boating is just reserved for the young. Don’t tell this to Wan Kam Tai, who at 70 years old has been actively participating in dragon boating for four years and racing in the People’s Association (PA) Active Agers’ Dragon Boat Race since 2007 with her husband (seen above). The PA Active Agers’ Dragon Boat Race is a category in the PA Paddle Championship 2010, which is held annually at the Bedok Reservoir in April.
During this year’s Active Agers’ Dragon Boat Race, there were 16 teams with 205 participants, with each team (which has a mixed group of 10 people) having at least 50 percent of its members being 50 years and above, and they don’t have to be related to one another.
Wan was the oldest in all the teams and she hails from the Dragon Boat Interest Group team from the Boon Lay Community Centre. According to PA, seniors like her enjoy dragon boating as it keeps them fit, allows them to feel young and builds up their self-confidence. As dragon boating is a team sport, it also helps develop friendships, including with the young, during and after the numerous training sessions.
Though her team did not win, Wan is happy to be a part of the race and speaks praises of dragon boating. “I chanced upon the Dragon Boat Interest Group at the CC when the Senior Citizens’ Executive Committee (SCEC) was having its recruitment drive. My family encouraged me to participate as they felt it would be beneficial, as it would help me stay active. It also helps that my daughter was an ex-National Dragon Boater so she is fully aware of the benefits,” said the ex-school bus driver, who retired seven years ago.
She added: “I look forward to dragon boating practice sessions. I feel good and rejuvenated to be outdoors when we go for our practice sessions once a month for two hours. I feel that joining this interest group together with my husband has also helped bring us closer as it is something we have in common and that we both enjoy.”
Besides dragon boating, Wan is a loyal pickleballer and plays three times a week at the CC. Wan shared that it was her 65-year-old husband, Lam Hong Ngiap, who initially encouraged her to participate in CC activities, besides looking after their grandchild.
Noted Wan, “My friends say I look younger now since I retired. I attribute it to an active lifestyle.”
The winning team (above) that completed the 300m in the fastest time was the Gek Poh Ville CC Team A, lead by 51-year-old Yeo Moh Kow. Yeo has been dragon boating since 1980 and later joined the CC team three years ago. He has been actively competing since when he started. “With dragon boating, you won’t get injured so easily as it is not a contact sport like soccer or basketball. It is an anaerobic sport and I like it.”
He was in the National Dragon Boat Team for 14 years since 1981 and have five SEA Game medals (three silver and two bronze) for dragon boating. He also has participated in many overseas races. Added Yeo: “I get to know more people and it is all about teamwork.”
Bringing families together
Dragon boating also brings families together. For example, 63-year-old Lum Lai Ching inspired her 32-year-old son, Kwan Kian Keong, and 31-year-old daughter-in-law, Qwek Le Leng, to join in her Punggol 21 Community Club Team dragon boating sessions. (Lum and her family seen above with Rebecca Tan, left, chairperson of the Punggol 21 Community Club Senior Citizens’ Executive Committee.) As a result, their bond has strengthened.
Quek is amazed by the energy displayed by her mother-in-law. She said: “Though a senior, she took a bold step to participate in a non-conventional sport such as dragon boat.” Added Lum, who started dragon boating last year, “Dragon boating provides us with the opportunity to work as a team when we row in the same boat. We learn to cooperate with one another and we cherish the quality time we spend together.”
The Active Agers’ Dragon Boat Race was introduced in 2007 and there were seven teams.