June Training Camp 2014 – Brandon Ooi

May 28, 2014 in Featured, News by Singapore Canoe Federation

As part of their preparation for this year’s Asiad in South Korea and next year’s SEA Games, our national athletes left Singapore at the end of April for a month-long training camp in Europe that will see them training and racing in various countries to gain greater exposure to competitions at the highest level. This is the first of a series of reflective pieces penned by our national athletes on the road in which they share reflections from their own journeys to donning national colours and their aspirations for the sport. To kick off the series, we have a piece penned by Brandon Ooi, who made his national team debut by representing Singapore in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010. Enjoy the read and let’s cheer Team Singapore Canoeing on!




World Cup 1. Milan, Italy.


There is a certain charm to racing. The type of enjoyment you derive from training for and participating in races is not the same as that from eating good food, relaxing in a hot spa or even sleeping after a hard day’s work. As strange as it sounds, the enjoyment comes from the suffering that you endure to test your physical and mental limits and the rush of adrenaline from hurtling towards the finish line with your heart pumping in your chest. That is why racing sports have always appealed to me.


I had been swimming with a club since 2005 and eventually moved to competitive swimming training five times a week but in 2007, when I was 13 and entered secondary school, I decided to venture into canoeing because it sounded fun at the time. When I now look back, it’s possibly because I just enjoyed interacting with water that I decided to take up this sport, which was hitherto entirely unknown to me. I initially trained competitively in both swimming and canoeing but in due course, discovered that I had a greater aptitude for canoeing and eventually decided to focus exclusively on canoeing in 2009. Cliché as that may sound, the rest is history.


I have never ever regretted that decision though I still remember my swimming days with fondness. It is probably through the good physical foundation and mental resilience that swimming gave me as a child that I eventually managed to achieve a breakthrough in canoeing. At the same time, I recognise that if I had remained a swimmer, I would probably not have reached the same level of achievements that I have in canoeing. Being able to race in crew boat events has also brought a whole new experience to racing that I never had in swimming, working in synchrony and unison with your partner or partners (for the K4 events). All this only goes to show how, sometimes in life, it does pay to wander off the beaten path and try out new things that you might find you are actually really good at.


Having made my way to Europe once again, I still had the pre-race jitters and various thoughts ran through my mind. I might have raced in a few World Series’ before as a junior, but I had never been in the same races as the athletes that I have idolised over the last 5 years I have been with the national team.


“What was in store for me? How can I do the best I can? How should I race? Will I do well? How can I look as big as them?” These were the questions that were running through my mind during the day we spent in Milan acclimatising to the freezing cold water and the dry air, a world’s difference from the heat, humidity and sunshine back home.


To put things in perspective, I would be racing against paddling greats like Australia’s Kenny Wallace, Canada’s Adam van Koeverden, Denmark’s Rene Houlten Poulsen, Germany’s Max Hoff and Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta, the canoeing equivalents of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. The excitement and nerves were overwhelming. Some people might be daunted, frightened even of the prospect of racing the elite.


Not me, I love racing, I may not like losing, but with every loss I learn where I went wrong, where I can make myself better and how I can improve, with the goal of making these losses fewer and fewer until I could be one of them.


I took part in four events in the first world cup in Milan – K1 1000, 500, 200 and 5000m. My goal was to make the semis for all of the events, but I only achieved it for the 1000m (by virtue of there being only 7 boats in my heat) and the 200m.


Personally, I thought I raced the best for the 500m, which has always been the event into which I could somehow squeeze all my energy reserves while still maintaining an extra level of speed. The 1000m semis was a great race for me as I played it out very tactically, beating one of our main competitors at Asian Games, Kyrgyzstan, despite making a minor mistake easing off at the wrong time.


However in the 200m, I raced well in the heats but I managed to mess up the race in the semis. Nevertheless, it was an extremely good opportunity to clock a good timing. I can’t say too much about the 5,000km except that it was one of the most physically gruelling experiences in my life. This really reminded me of my days in swimming where I was kind of hopeless at anything above 200m in the pool, but at 50m, I could give the better swimmers a huge scare. However my days in the pool are now just a faint memory with my having left my swimming days behind me 5 years ago.


My goal has now changed from being the best in Singapore to being the best in the world. With hard, smart training with one of the best coaches in the world, who can say that this dream cannot become a reality?