TODAYonline: Brandon Ooi determined to make SEA Games splash

December 20, 2013 in In the Press by Singapore Canoe Federation

 17150114 (679x1024)

SINGAPORE — For some athletes, winning a medal at the South-east Asian (SEA) Games would give them satisfaction and enough material for dinner-table bragging for many years.But as far as kayaker Brandon Ooi is concerned, the two bronze medals he won in the K2 200m and K2 1000m during his SEA Games debut in 2011 are nothing to shout about — even though he had achieved them, while fighting crippling pain from tendinitis in his right hand that prevented him from gripping the paddle properly, much less execute a proper stroke.What the two medals did do, however, was to give him the assurance that his journey to become a world-class paddler remains on track.This was because the former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student was not able to train full-time for the Games because of his International Baccalaureate studies and subsequently his Basic Military Training when he enlisted.

This month, Ooi intends to take another step forward in his dream to become a world-class paddler — by winning gold in Myanmar. With only three men’s kayaking medals on offer at the 2013 Games, the 19-year-old national serviceman has snared one of the two prized K1 spots — he will contest the K1 500m while Mervyn Toh tackles the K1 200m. Four other teammates are in the K4 1000m.

“I know that if I do my best, I will get what I deserve, which will hopefully be gold,” said Ooi. “I felt in 2011 I could and should have won gold but the injury gave me no chance. I feel like it’s unlucky but I know I can do it. This year I need to show I have improved, and winning gold will put me where I need to be.”

And where Ooi wants to be is to be competing with the best in the world, something he has desired since he went to the Junior World Championships in 2009 in the lead-up to his participation in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games here.

“Ever since the 2009 Junior World Championships, I really wanted to be one of them, one of the winners,” said Ooi of his Moscow outing. “I didn’t care how small I was, how far behind I was at that point of time. I just made it a point to aim for the A final at the next championships in 2011.”

A call-up to the national senior squad and administrative issues meant Ooi was unable to attend the 2011 edition. Nevertheless, he remains hooked on the dream.

Balazs Babella, Ooi’s coach since 2009, thinks his charge can go far.

“When I saw him in 2009, I could see he really wanted to do it more than anybody else,” said Babella, a former two-time K4 200m World Champion from Hungary. “Brandon’s a bright guy and he can see clearly what lies ahead, and he always fights to win. He’s the kind of guy who needs the competition and to see where he measures against the best so that he can push himself harder.”


Ooi readily admitted he was jealous when Geraldine Lee became Singapore’s first Olympic canoeist last year. “I wanted to be the first,” he said. “But if I qualify for Rio (de Janeiro in 2016), I can still be the first Singapore an man to do so. I want to be able to say all this time spent training, fighting for my life, taking scoldings from coach and parents … they were all worth it.”His coach is certainly backing him to make a good bash at qualifying for Rio. “Brandon’s passion is there and he can still improve. After NS in May 2015, it will easier for him to get to a higher level,” said Babella.

One thing is for sure, Ooi has the 2015 SEA Games here in his plans. “Even now it’s not enough to just win medals, I want to be winning gold medals in 2015,” he said.

Philip Goh
Published: 03 December, 4:02amTODAY’s countdown for the SEA Games (Dec 11-22) focuses on the young talents who have the potential to win medals both in Myanmar and at the 2015 Games in Singapore. We shine the spotlight today on kayaker Brandon Ooi who is not only gunning for regional gold but also plans to become the Republic’s first male paddler at the Olympics …Source: