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Rio wrap-up: Team Singapore - Rowing

Saiyidah Aisyah (women’s single sculls)

Saiyidah Aisyah Mohamed Rafa'ee reacts after heat. Photo: REUTERS

Saiyidah Aisyah Mohamed Rafa'ee reacts after heat. Photo: REUTERS


It was a long and arduous journey for Saiyidah Aisyah to the Olympic Games. The 28-year-old faced many obstacles, including financial difficulties and battling her own mental demons, in her quest to qualify for Rio.

But it all paid off eventually, as she finished first in the Final B race of the 2,000m Single Sculls event at the Asia and Oceania Olympic qualification regatta in South Korea in April, which guaranteed her a ticket to Rio.

Her achievement was also historic as it made her Singapore’s first rower to qualify for the Olympics.

Qualifying for the Olympics also came with peace of mind as she received a spexScholarship from Sport Singapore and a couple of sponsors came on board to support her

Following discussions with her Australian coach, Alan Bennett, Aisyah set herself a target of reaching the Final D in the event, which would see her finish in the top-24 out of a total of 32 competitors. This goal was benchmarked against how most of the Asian competitors had fared at the previous Olympics in London.


Despite battling tough weather conditions and choppy waters, Aisyah managed to hold her own during the heats to finish third in 8min 44.71s. It was a result that was good enough to see her through to the quarter-finals.

Her feat also earned her praise from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who posted on his Facebook page that he was “delighted” with the outcome of the race.

However, advancing from the quarter-finals against a world-class field proved to be a bridge too far for her.

While Aisyah pushed herself hard and held up strong till the halfway mark of the quarter-final race, she eventually faded and finished sixth out of six rowers. Still, she did post a significantly better time of 7min 56s, which placed her 21st out of 24 quarter-finalists overall.

Aisyah subsequently raced in the semi-finals C/D, where she once again finished sixth in her race in 8:22.45. It meant she would do battle in the D Final – achieving the pre-Games target that she had set for herself.

There, she eventually came in fifth in 7min 55.73s to finish 23rd overall.

She also emerged the third best Asian rower at the Games, behind her counterparts from China (Duan Jingli, 7:24.13; 3rd) and South Korea (Kim Ye-Ji, 7:52.68, 18th). The result suggests promise for the 2018 Asian Games.


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