When one thinks about Dragon Boating, what comes to mind is how physically demanding the sport is. In other words, it’s a sport that one usually associates with the young and fit. But there is a group of seniors who are here to prove how wrong this mindset can be.
Meet Sally, Careen, Jacky and Francis. They are senior dragon boaters who took part in the 13th World Nations Dragon Boat Championship held at Kunming, China last year. Organised by International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) 'The World Governing Body of Dragon Boat Sport', it is an International Dragon Boat Competition where teams from all over the world gather to compete. These four seniors were part of a team of 62 senior dragon boaters who had competed and even managed to win a number of medals in the senior category of the race. Kudos to them for doing Singapore proud! (9th in the World Standing)
To experience something different
At 49, Careen is the youngest member out of the four. Careen used to participate in marathons and cycle regularly, which are mostly individual sports. She yearned to take up a team sport to expand her social circle, which was why she took up dragon boating.
“I wanted to experience something different…to learn and grow in a team. It’s never too late to pick up something new. It’s all about having a positive mindset.”
Since taking up the sport 3 years ago, Careen’s passion for it burns ever brighter and she constantly strives to do better. She is also keen to keep up with technology to be more connected with her family and has interest to learn cooking and photography. She hopes to find courses to suit her interest under National Silver Academy (NSA) in the near future.
Oldest members of the group
Cutting lean and fit physiques, one would have never guessed that Sally and Jacky are the oldest members of the four at 62. Both of them have the stamina to put most people half their age to shame. Sally has always been active and enjoys water sports but when she was introduced to dragon boating 5 years ago, she never imagined that she would be able to pick up a new sport in her late 50s and excel at it.
These seniors usually train together with the younger members of the team. In fact, they have proven themselves to be much more than an equal training partner to their younger counterparts.
“The training is physically challenging, but I enjoy every minute of it. Sure, the young people are faster and stronger in a short race but when it comes to endurance and perseverance, they are surprised that we can beat them.”
At her age, Sally is a role model of what active ageing entails at this modern age and she shows no sign of slowing down.
It’s a team sport
When it comes to dragon boating, Jacky is easily the veteran of the four and he looks the part with his tan and burly frame. He was the instructor for other teams before, and a strong believer that the sport can help build character and integrity. These are traits that he values as he runs a successful business distributing a reputable sports brand.
“Dragon boating can help to enhance a person’s listening and communication skills. It’s a team sport that requires precise co-ordination among the team members and a lot of discipline,” he emphasised.
A strong advocate of the sport, Jacky is optimistic for more seniors to take up this sport as there are many opportunities for them learn the basics in Singapore.
Age is just a number
Four years ago, Francis decided to have a go at dragon boating just for fun. He has always led an active lifestyle and did his first triathlon at the age of 50. At 51, he took part in a cycling event where he covered a total distance of 42km. Despite embracing dragon boating late in his life, he too fell in love with the sport, especially with the team spirit the sport has helped to instil in its participants.
Despite going through the “ups and downs” in his life, being one of the Singapore’s Masters Dragon Boat National Team Captain last year and Chairman of the Singapore Masters Dragon Boat Committee this year, Francis remains committed in doing his best during training and displays character and integrity when it matters the most. It was during of one of his “down” period when the team competed at Kunming last year that Francis had just lost his job at that time. Despite going through a rough patch in his life, he did not let himself become demoralised. Instead, he picked himself up and continued to do his best and pushed through the period of the event because he knew that his teammates depended on him.
After the competition, Francis had used the same perseverance to propel himself forward in his work life. He used his SkillsFuture Credit to take up Web Design and Java Script courses, to upgrade his skills and keep himself relevant. He believes strongly that lifelong learning is not only the key to active ageing but also to stay relevant to the world around us as well. Today, he has come out stronger and wiser because of it.
“To me, age is just a number. Believe in yourself, stay focused and you can succeed.”
Working together is success
Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
This quote certainly speaks to every individual of the dragon boat team. After all, dragon boating unites everyone through the high level of teamwork required. With dragon boating bringing together individuals from all walks of life, it is no wonder that the sport has now become a part of these seniors.
**Special thanks to Sally, Careen, Jacky and Francis who accepted our interview, we wish them all the very best in their active ageing journey.
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