Rower Saiyidah Aisyah provided some first day success for Team Singapore by qualifying for the quarter-finals of the women’s single sculls in Rio, as her noted determination to overcome the odds delivered again.
At the picturesque Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas venue, the 28-year-old Saiyidah finished third in her heat, edging out rivals from Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei to secure a place in Tuesday’s next round.
TeamSG rower Saiyidah Aisyah celebrates after her heats. Photo: Sport Singapore
Saiyidah, the first ever Singaporean to qualify for Olympic rowing, posted a time of 8:44.71 in Heat 4, while Duan Jingli of China won the 2,000 metre race with 8:18.57 and Switzerland's Jeanine Gmelin was second with 8:28.10.
“What an amazing experience,” Saiyidah said after the race, as she rushed off to her warm-down exercises.
“I just relaxed and tried my best. I am so proud to represent Singapore. Yes there is a bit of pressure but it is going to be exciting now,” she added looking ahead to the quarter-final.
Saiyidah has been based in Sydney for the past year where she has been training full-time.
That commitment paid off in April when she won her place at the Asian and Oceania Olympic qualifying regatta in Chungju, South Korea, her first victory since her golden triumph in the 2013 SEA Games.
TeamSG rower Saiyidah Aisyah in action during the first of her races. Photo: Sport Singapore
But just two weeks before that race, Saiyidah was close to rock-bottom after some poor form and after one letdown in Sydney she took off the Olympic Rings necklace that she has had around her neck for six years and, in front of her Australian coach Alan Bennett, hurled it away.
Although she did not find her necklace again, she did find the determination to carry on and turnaround her form while her qualification for Rio garnered her some private sponsorship help on top of her Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship).
And a replacement Olympic chain, bought for her as a present, was round her neck as she powered her way down the lagoon on Saturday.
While her qualification from her heat will give her the greatest satisfaction, Saiyidah has also had some good fortune in Rio where she met with her sporting hero - New Zealand rugby player Sonny Bill Williams and captured the moment in an instagram post.
Despite a 10am race-time, Saiyidah was also part of the Singapore delegation at the opening ceremony on Friday night.
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