Lesser-known underwater sports drawing more interest
Three years ago, like most people in Singapore, Ms Chua Yi Ying had never heard of underwater hockey.
She was looking for a new activity to explore before enrolling in a university and decided to try it when a friend introduced it to her.
She became hooked.
She got so good at it she became part of Singapore's underwater hockey contingent that clinched four gold medals at the 2019 SEA Games.
"Because of the publicity after the SEA Games, I have seen more people of various ages showing an interest in the sport and coming down to try it," said Ms Chua, 22, now a final-year sport science undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Ms Alice Chong, club president of Stirling Underwater Hockey Club, the only club offering the sport in Singapore, said it has 70 members, a 15 per cent increase since the SEA Games.
Because she had swimming experience with her polytechnic, Ms Chua was able to adapt quickly to the sport, which requires players to hold their breath underwater during the game.
Players use short sticks to hit a plastic-coated lead puck that is placed at the bottom of the pool and aim to shoot the puck into the opponent's goal.
Ms Chua, who intends to pursue a career in sport science, hopes underwater hockey can become even more mainstream.
She said: "Many people are still not sure how underwater hockey is played, so when it comes up in a conversation, I would often have to explain."
Another underwater sport that has enjoyed more popularity here is underwater rugby.
A full contact sport like its land counterpart, it is played in a deep pool with two teams aiming to score goals by placing the ball into the opponent's basket at the bottom of the pool.
A spokesman for First Asian Team Underwater Rugby Singapore, which runs the sport here, said it has about 60 members.
Mr Fu Zi Xiang got into the sport seven years ago while doing national service.
While he was at NTU, he represented Singapore in the 2016 Pan Pacific Cup in Australia and in the 2018 Champions Cup in Germany.
Mr Fu, 26, now a software engineer, said: "We hope that more people can find out more about underwater rugby and try their hand at it to see if it is for them."