Reflection: National Canoe Polo Championships

August 25, 2014 in Featured, News by Singapore Canoe Federation


By Randy, teamNUS Canoe Polo.

The 16th Singapore National Canoe Polo Championships recently concluded on 3rd August with a splash, and my team, NUS, clinched the Inter-Varsity Polytechnic (IVP) Men’s title in a heart-stopping final held at the Jurong West Swimming Complex.

As I recapture in my mind the winning goal when the ball slowly trickled into the net instead of floating away from the goal frame upon being blocked, I am reminded of how this match could have gone either way. Yet, as with all sports, and perhaps to a larger extent, life itself, champions are celebrated over runners-up even when nothing significant sets the two teams apart. Everyone has spent an entire season training just for this moment; that is, a chance to vindicate the sacrifices made. Nonetheless, a luckless slip of focus could mean the difference between everything simply going down the drain. The margin of error is that slim.

I do not enjoy losing and I don’t think anyone does. The kind-hearted tend to console runners-up with the adage – “winning isn’t everything”. In return, the latter would reply – “it’s the only thing”.  However, are both statements necessarily true in an absolute sense?

When the euphoria of victory settled, I asked myself what it was exactly that made this accomplishment so valuable to me. Was it worth celebrating simply by virtue of the fact that it meant we are now champions? Definitely not. In the grand scheme of things, such petty achievements are hardly significant and will fade rapidly with time. Then, I wondered how things would turn out if we were to have lost after a long hard fight instead. Undoubtedly, I would have been crushed, but I would definitely be glad to have given my best together with the rest of my team.

Herein, perhaps, lies the beauty of competitive team sports – it is a collective effervescence where a diverse group of souls struggle in unison towards a common goal. There is just something magical about having people with varying stories and backgrounds coming together and setting aside all differences and clashes in personalities (let’s admit it, put together a group of humans and you are bound to have friction, even within a family).

I vividly recall the tension within the team in the weeks building up to the competition, when the strength of our individual ambitions to reclaim the Men’s title after 12 long years appeared to be wavering. Even during the early stages of the competition, our shabby performances seemed to indicate a lack of hunger to win. Then, on the very day itself, the eight of us representing NUS for the finals were reminded by our captain that we were playing not for ourselves, but for the rest of the club; that is, our other teammates who had steadfastly trained and sparred with us throughout the year but were not playing in the varsity team due to limited spaces.

Something inside us clicked. There was a higher sense of purpose. We wanted to make the people who had pinned all their hopes on us proud. As the match grudgingly went into overtime, a lethal blend of fatigue and self-doubt crept in. Yet, we knew that it would be selfish of us to let our own moments of weakness collapse everyone’s efforts. With our teammates cheering thunderously on the sidelines, we continued to give our very best against worthy and determined opponents, and were rewarded with a soft goal that ended the game in our favour.

In the end, be it for a gold, silver, bronze, or even the sake of the competition itself, we compete to honour a cause that is far larger than our individual selves; this is the greatest reward for me as a member of teamNUS Canoe Polo. Albert Camus, a 20th century philosopher, once commented on the importance of trials and tribulations for a meaningful life, and wrote that the struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. Hence, I am thankful to have embarked on this journey with everyone else that participated in this year’s National Championships who gave their all, and this piece of reflection is a tribute to them.