Passion for rowing unites this Singapore family of six, Latest Others News - The New Paper

Passion for rowing unites this Singapore family of six

A family that rows together, stays together. At least when it comes to the Yees.

Yee Kok Pheng, 53, his wife Kee Su Ling, 52, sons Matthew, 26, Marcus, 19, Micah, 17 and daughter, Rebekah, 14, were among nearly 120 competitors at the inaugural Singapore Indoor Rowing Championships on March 30 at The Row Space on Aliwal Street. 

Su Ling and Rebekah raced in the women’s 500m while the rest participated in the men’s event. Kok Pheng took bragging rights, beating his kids by finishing seventh among 23 rowers.

While the Yees, all dressed in matching maroon tops, did not win any medals in the individual category, Kok Pheng claimed a silver in the relay.

The real triumph, however, was the quality time together. Kok Pheng said: “Rowing is an activity that we are able to share and participate in as a family and it helps us all to keep fit and healthy.

“Exercise has to be part of your schedule, so that it can help you to destress from the pressures of daily life... for us, there is an added bonus of allowing us to connect as a family.”

For Micah, it was a memorable day.

The Institute of Technical Education College East student said: “I don’t think too many people can say that they entered a sports competition with their whole family. It’s something I will always remember.”

Kok Pheng, a Singapore permanent resident from Penang, started indoor rowing around 2003, when he was recommended the machine as part of his rehabilitation after an ankle injury playing basketball. He later competed in several state-level competitions and even the 2023 World Indoor Rowing Championships.

His passion has proved infectious. There is a rowing machine in their Tampines home and everyone takes turns on it with Kok Pheng keeping a close watch, even remotely.

Su Ling said: “When he is away on business trips, he sends us messages to ask us if we have done any rowing for the day and he will ask us to send through pictures of the distance we rowed. He pushes us to do it.”

Meanwhile, Joan Poh was the runaway winner in the women’s 2,000m in 7min 10.2sec, ahead of Joanna Chan (7:25.7) and Madeline Ng (7:44.3).

The 32-year-old made her Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games in 2021 but will not be at Paris 2024.

The returning Saiyidah Aisyah won February’s national selection trials and will represent Singapore at the April 19-21 Asian and Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta in Chungju, South Korea.

Poh, who clinched a bronze at the 2015 SEA Games, said while there was “hurt”, she is looking ahead.

She added: “I started rowing in 2015 at the SEA Games held in Singapore. The next time it will be in Singapore is in 2029, so I have set that as my benchmark and my swansong. It will be like coming full circle.

“I hope that we will be able to put on a very good showing then and show what Singaporeans can actually do.”

Singapore Rowing president Paul Supramaniam hopes to organise the competition, where results were also formally recognised as national records, annually and raise the sport’s popularity and participation rates.

He said his association had received an overwhelming number of sign-ups and had to turn away many. It hopes to hold future events in a larger space.

Paul said: “Holding the Indoor Championships can boost the sport on many levels. It is something that brings the community together, because indoor rowing is for all ages. It is also a fantastic way of identifying talent.

“People who are trainers in gyms are doing very well now in competitions and we can say to them, why don’t you become part of our national rowing training team? So it can be a (part of) talent identification methodology.”