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AG2018: Canoe polo holds medal hopes for Team Singapore

29 August 2018
Philip Goh

 

They may only have found out in June that Canoe Polo would feature at the Asian Games but Team Singapore paddlers made the most of this rare opportunity at a major Games, with the women’s team making the final while the men’s team finished 5th.

Canoe Polo is only a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games, alongside eSports, but there is hope that this sport will gain full medal status at future Asiads – if not in Hangzhou in four years’ time, then quite likely in Nagoya in 2026.

canoe poloTeam Singapore women's canoe polo team. Photo: Sport Singapore

 

The sport itself is visually pleasing and easy to understand, which enhances its chances of gaining official status. Touted as a combination of water polo, basketball and kayaking, players compete to score as many goals during two 10-minute halves, with the goal frames suspended two metres above the water at either end of the playing area.

Competition was held over three days at the Jakabaring Aquatic Centre in Palembang, with Singapore’s women topping their group after wins over Iran (3-2) and Malaysia (17-1). They beat Japan 4-1 in the semi-finals yesterday (28 Aug).

Having finished as the top Asian nation (9th place) at the Canoe Polo World Championships in Welland, Canada, just three weeks ago – Iran did not participate – the team were keen to cement their status as the region’s best.

Facing Iran for a second time in this competition, this time for the gold medal, Singapore’s players couldn’t settle into a proper rhythm. Iran would take a 3-0 lead before Singapore hit back. As the Republic’s players chased the game, the backline was exposed as Iran scored two more goals before Singapore scored a consolation to make the final score line 5-2 in Iran’s favour.

Team captain Chad Ong said while a win would have been good, being part of the Asian Games was more important.

“Canoe Polo may be just a demonstration event this time but we really feel like a part of the Asian Games. It’s a great bonding experience for our team but more importantly, I hope our presence at these games will help raise the profile of our sport,” said the 38-year-old sports administrator.

 

canoe polo leow fang huiLeow Fang Hui (left) in action for Singapore. Photo: Sport Singapore

 

“In Singapore, we used to just see three teams taking part in our local competitions but now it’s up to 10. While the men’s competition has grown from five to 20 teams. We want more people to be involved with the sport.”

Past attempts to introduce Canoe Polo at the SEA Games had been unsuccessful but with Malaysia nabbing the men’s silver in Palembang, impetus could grow for the game’s inclusion at the regional games.

Chua Kee Huat, past president of the Singapore Canoe Federation, was tireless in promoting Canoe Polo during his tenure. And he was pleased the sport finally made an appearance at a major Games.

 

canoe poloThe goal frame is 2m above the water. Photo: Sport Singapore

 

“It is a major milestone and achievement for Canoe Polo to make it to the Asian Games, even as a demonstration sport,” he said. “I hope this gives Canoe Polo the boost for it to be further promoted within South-east Asia and other Asian countries.”

For vice-captain Tan Li Ling, who picked up the sport while at the National University of Singapore, Canoe Polo holds plenty of potential.

“It is a true spectator sport with lots to offer,” she said. “We hope our second place here will gain us more support. It is possible for this sport to be included for the SEA Games, Asian Games and even the Olympics, and Singapore is in it to help push this sport to a higher level and a bigger stage.”

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Tags: Major Games

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