Dragon boaters' 3 keys to success
Singapore's dragon boaters are focused on teamwork, coordination and cohesiveness
They will be seated in pairs and competing in groups of six or 12, as they propel their boat forward using paddles.
For Singapore's dragon boat team, good teamwork takes on a whole new level of significance.
The slightest hitch in coordination can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
"It's not just the movement of the paddle that matters, but every single movement in the boat as well," said national paddler Joyce Wee.
"Like the entry point, exit point and how fast we pull - all of these should be coordinated, because movements that are not in sync would mean the glide of the boat won't be as good."
The 22-year-old, who formed part of the women's five-crew bronze-medal winning team at the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, added: "Ten paddlers who are not physically strong but are well coordinated could still match up to or even outdo 10 paddlers who are stronger but less coordinated.
"For dragon boat, you can't have individual strengths and weaknesses. Everyone must work to become the same and have coordinated movements."
Men's team captain Loh Zhi Ying agreed, saying: "The level of intensity and amount of hard work are similar across all sports but, in terms of teamwork, we need time and a full crew of full-timers to get our synergy right."
Loh and Wee have taken time off from their studies to prepare for the Games - Loh deferred his studies at the Singapore Institute of Management for a year, while Wee, a second-year student at Nanyang Technological University, has taken a semester off.
Both the men's and women's teams had commenced full-time training from as early as last October, and have been undergoing an intensive in-camp training programme since March.
Led by head coach Naing Naing Htoo, who had led Myanmar to an impressive 14 gold medals at the 2013 Games, Singapore's dragon boaters are sparing no expense in the last stretch, as they gun for podium finishes at the upcoming Games. The men are aiming for gold medals in the six-crew 200m and 500m races, while the women are targeting at least a bronze in the same categories.
The women's third-place finish in the five-crew 500m race at the last Games in Myanmar is their best result to date, while the men's team's first and only SEA Games gold came in 1993 - the last time the Republic hosted the event.
It was also the first time dragon boat was featured at the Games.
Now, the men's and women's teams carry out their daily activities as one - from gathering to sing the national anthem at 7am every morning, to having dinner together after their second and final training of the day, to returning to their hostel together.
Paddler Jerry Tan, who had featured in the 2011 and 2013 Games, described this routine as "very cohesive".
"This year's Games will be different from the previous editions - we'll be going in as a crew that is more well prepared and focused," said Tan.
"Everybody is more ready this time and, with the home-ground advantage, there's a better vibe going on... everyone's extremely pumped up."
The 31-year-old had applied for eight months of no-pay leave from his job in logistics to concentrate on preparing for the Games.
He said: "It's my third SEA Games, but I'm still very excited."
While Tan is looking forward to giving his friends and family a "good show", captain Loh admitted to having "mixed emotions", when he thinks about the prospect of competing in front of a home crowd.
"I definitely feel the pressure, but it's neutralised by the support from my friends and family," said Loh.
"Once we're on the water and the air horn sounds, we'll all be in the zone and focused only on the race."
Although he listed powerhouses Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines as their biggest threats, Loh added: "If people are expecting our opponents to take a clear lead over us, they won't get to see it."
TRADITIONAL BOAT RACE
- When: Today and tomorrow
- Where: Marina Bay (free)
- Gold medals on offer: 8
- History: 1 gold, 1 bronze
- Milestones: The men's gold medal in the 10-crew, 500m event at the 1993 SEA Games at home was Singapore's first and only gold in the sport. It was also the first year the sport was featured in the Games. The next medal would come 20 years later, with the women's five-crew team clinching the bronze medal in the 500m event at the 2013 Games in Myanmar.
- The team: Shona Chan, Jennifer Chen, Kang Yu Jia, Loh Peixuan, Diana Nai, Ng Ji Yan, Shanice Ng, Joyce Wee, Pamela Choong, Christie Han, Hu Qinmei, Ellycia Leong, Lim Xiaowei, Hayden Ong, Clement Neo, How Wei Min, Gan Chea Hau, Kiang Jian Xiang, Titus Hong, Loh Zhi Ying, Shawn Tan, Tan Chun Leng, Jerry Tan, Kong Peng Hui, Kumar Barath, Esmonde Tan, Lam Yi He, Lee Wee Siang
- Did you know: At age 31, Jerry Tan is the team's longest-serving dragon boater. He has been involved in the sport since 2008.
- The New Paper's medal prediction: One gold medal