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Singaporean canoeist paddles himself to success

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Canoeist Syaheenul Aiman, a SEA Games silver medallist and Olympic hopeful, was at a community try out on Saturday to introduce the public to the sport he loves.

Singaporean canoeist paddles himself to success

Syaheenul Aiman. Photo: Sport Singapore 

Under the scorching midday sun at MacRitchie Reservoir, the 24-year-old patiently coached children and adults alike. But behind his amiable and easy going demeanour lies a tale of dogged perseverance and determination. 

Singaporean canoeist paddles himself to success

Team Singapore canoeists teaching members of the public about canoeing. Photo: Sport Singapore

For Aiman, it was no easy feat getting into the national canoeing team. The sport had no pedigree at his school, First Toa Payoh Secondary, meaning self-funded, solo training sessions.

Fortunately, though, he had natural talent and a supportive father who just happened to be a canoeing instructor.

"My dad bought me a boat. He bought me a paddle and he actually rented a shed here to keep my stuff. So after school, I would just drop by there and train by myself," said Aiman.

"My school did not offer canoeing as a co-curricular activity and for every training, my father would rush down after work to pick me up after school to train."

After only five months of training, Aiman managed to finish fourth in an inter-school tournament and was handpicked to join one of the top Junior Colleges in Singapore. 

Singaporean canoeist paddles himself to success

Aiman managed to finish fourth in an inter-school tournament after only five months of training. Photo: Sport Singapore

He went on to represent Singapore and win medals at regional competitions. Nobody, Aiman included, expected such success.

After all, canoeing had only been a path to a better school and brighter future.

"I did canoeing to get into National Junior College, and I only started in secondary four so it was kind of a last minute thing," he said.

"At that point of time, my dad asked me if I wanted to go into a junior college. But he knew and I knew that my results were not that good."

Aiman was eventually taken into National Junior College through the Direct School Admissions Scheme and is now studying mechanical engineering at the National University of Singapore.

He now juggles 20-hour-a-week training sessions with his studies.

Having missed out on a SEA Games gold by a heartbreaking 0.33 seconds earlier this month, Aiman has already set his sights on the next task - the Asian Canoeing Championships in November.

"It is important for me and my team because it’s actually our Olympic qualifiers," he said.

"If we do well there, we have a chance to qualify for the Olympics in 2016."

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