Lonely Saiyidah rows to gold
SAIYIDAH Aisyah spent the last week feeling a little out of place at the SEA Games Athletes' Village.
While other Team Singapore athletes had at least one companion doing the same sport to keep them company in Naypyidaw, she is all by herself as she is the nation's lone representative in rowing.
The 25-year-old revealed: "I get some athletes who would come up to me and say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry that you're alone.'
"But I would tell them that it doesn't affect my rowing. In fact, it might just motivate me to row harder."
No one is feeling sorry for Saiyidah now. Yesterday, she rowed herself to a surprise gold medal in the 2,000m women's lightweight single scull with a time of 8min 8.94sec. This is Singapore's first rowing victory at the Games since 1997.
Saiyidah wore a huge grin after the race. "Oh my God, I won!" she shouted repeatedly.
Her surprise is understandable. After all, her golden hopes had seemed bleak at the 1,500m mark. At that point, Thailand's Olympic rower, Phuttharaksa Neegree, was in a commanding lead, nearly three quarters of a boat length ahead of Saiyidah.
But things changed rapidly in the next 250m, as the Thai slowed down dramatically, totally spent after carving out that big lead. She did not even make the podium in the end, as Indonesia's Maryam Makdalena Daimoi was second in 8:10.47, while Myanmar's Shwe Zin Latt was third in 8:14.85.
Saiyidah recalled: "I didn't panic throughout the race. I simply counted my strokes, and stayed consistent.
"It's only when I saw the Thai rower slow down that I started to pick up my pace, at the same time trying to fend off Maryam."
Saiyidah, who had earned three bronzes over two previous SEA Games, said: "I listened to my coach's advice to go to Sydney for a three-month training stint earlier this year, and now my dream's come true."
That Sydney stint - which she paid for partly with the $10,000 she received from the Peter Lim Scholarship in July - involved some sacrifice. She had to take no-pay leave from her day job as a student-development manager at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Clutching her hard-earned gold medal after the race, the lithe rower hoped that she has made a case for rowing to be included in the sports programme for the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
"I want to show my country that I can win gold again in 2015," she said.
In Yangon, Nicole Tan clinched the Republic's first shooting gold medal at the Games.
She beat Malaysia's Siti Nur Mastiah and Vietnam's Trieu Thi Hoa Hong to the top spot in the women's 25m pistol event.
In athletics, Singapore's Muhammad Amirudin won bronze in the men's 100m sprint, while Dipna Lim-Prasad was also third in the women's 400m hurdles with a national record time of 59.96sec.