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Saiyidah Aisyah is first Singaporean rower to qualify for Olympics

SINGAPORE — History was made on Monday (April 25) as Saiyidah Aisyah became the first rower from Singapore to qualify for the Olympics.

National rower Saiyidah Aisyah Rafa'ee. TODAY file photo

National rower Saiyidah Aisyah Rafa'ee. TODAY file photo

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — History was made on Monday (April 25) as Saiyidah Aisyah became the first rower from Singapore to qualify for the Olympics.

The 28-year-old booked her ticket to Rio de Janeiro after finishing first in the B Final, and seventh overall, in the women’s 2,000m single sculls event at the Asia and Oceania Continental Olympic Qualification Regatta in Chung-ju, South Korea.

Only the top seven rowers in the event will qualify for the 2016 Olympics, at the sole qualifying event for rowers in the region. These include all six rowers from the A Final – hailing from Kazhastan, Vietnam, Chinese-Taipei, Indonesia, Iran and South Korea - and the winner of the B Final.

Aisyah, who is part of Race to Rio 2016 programme - a scheme started by sports authorities in Singapore to fund athletes who have qualified, or are qualifying for the Olympics and Paralympics Games – timed 7min 53.13secs to win the six-strong B Final field.

She beat 2015 South-east Asian (SEA) Games gold medallist (1,000m lightweight singles sculls) Phuttaraksa Neegree from Thailand who settled for second (7:54.22), and top Qatar rower Tala Aladin Abujbara (7:55.66).

The quest for Aisyah – who made history at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar by winning Singapore’s first rowing gold (2,000m lightweight singles sculls) since 1997 – to qualify for the 2016 Olympics has not ben an easy one, but Aisyah displayed sheer determination in overcoming the odds.

What made it more impressive is that Aisyah, double bronze-medallist in the over 1,000m and 500m lightweight singles sculls at the 2015 SEA Games, only made the switch to the 2016 Olympics event in the 2,000m openweight single sculls event last August. She also took to crowd-funding three months ago when she depleted her savings to fund her training expenses.

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