Rower Saiyidah Aisyah on SEA Games bronze: I gave my all

Aisyah receiving her bronze medal. Photo: Teng Kiat

It was not easy for rower Saiyidah Aisyah Rafa’ee to adapt to training for a shorter distance for her races in the 28th SEA Games.

The 27-year-old won Singapore’s first-ever individual rowing gold in 2013 in the 2,000m lightweight single sculls event, but it was not offered in this Games. Instead, she had to alter her routine to suit the 500m and 1,000m distances.

And even though Aisyah could not replicate her gold-medal feat in the 500m on Thursday morning, the rower “left the water with no regrets”.

“I gave it my all and at that point of time, that was the best I could do,” she said after her race, where she finished in 1:47.46s behind Indonesia’s Maryam Makdalena (1:44.29) and Thailand’s Phuttharaksa Neegree (1:45.75).

Tough to adjust
Australia-based Aisyah, who raced the 500m for only the second time in March’s Asian Cup, admitted it had been tough to adjust to a more sprint-based event.

“It definitely did make a whole lot of difference to the training programme. It was more on power, aggression and speed-work, it was very different,” she explained.

“It was quite difficult. When I went back to Sydney during that period from March to June, that was the period when I trained, so that was about three months of changing my programme. It was difficult, but I knew I had to do it.”

Aisyah took heart from her fifth-place in the Asian Cup to row her way to a podium finish this time, while she was also inspired by having her family cheering her on for the first time.

“I had a bad experience in March and I was so tense then, but now I felt like I enjoyed the race more. That was a good experience for me and now I'm more focused on my races, I enjoy my races more - and I got a podium finish,” she reflected.

“It’s amazing because it’s such a short distance [from the stands to the water and] I can hear them from the start. It’s a good feeling to know that no matter what position you’re in, you’ve made them proud.”

“It was the first time when I finished and everyone was screaming my name. It was such a good feeling!”

Aisyah's fans at the Marina Channel. Photo: Teng Kiat
Aisyah's fans at the Marina Channel. Photo: Teng Kiat

Ready to do better
The bronze medal has also made Aisyah even more determined to put in a better display in her remaining event, the 1,000m, with the heats on Friday and the final on Sunday.
She will be up against Maryam and Phuttharaksa again, the duo who took the top two in the Asian Cup in both the 500m and 1,000m.

“I shouldn’t lose focus that I have another chance of getting another podium finish and even a gold medal,” asserted Aisyah.

“I shouldn’t be satisfied with this. I'm still hungry and it actually spurs me on to want to do more. Two more races to go - two more races to show what I am made of.”