We found love through Canoeing

February 14, 2015 in Canoeing News, Featured by Singapore Canoe Federation

When February rolls around every year, Valentine’s Day invariably comes to mind and for this month’s article, we feature five ‘Canoeing Couples’ of different vintages whose lives and relationships have been, and are, intricately bound to the sport we all love. Read on as they share their thoughts about how they met and how canoeing has played a part in their lives together.

Patrick & Lilian

Patrick Fong 2

With his imposing stature, Patrick Fong, who represented Singapore in Canoe Sprint decades ago, is difficult to miss in a crowd and can often be spotted at local paddling events diligently coaching his young charges or helping ensure that events run smoothly as a volunteer with the SCF. Married to Lilian Tan since 1999, they have two children turning 12 and 14 this year.

Patrick: Lilian and I met when we were members of the Punggol Point Canoe Club back in the late eighties. We were then training together representing the club in local canoeing races. It’s been so long that I have forgotten who made the first move.

Lilian: Most of our weekends were spent at the club doing things we both enjoyed and thereafter going for movies with other club members. It was a gradual, and very natural transition for us from being friends to becoming a couple.

Patrick: Besides our common interest in canoeing, we have been very involved in dragon boating. We both decided to join the People’s Association Dragon Boat Team, and represented the team in many local competitions. We have also competed together in regional dragon boat races in Taiwan and China. In fact, Lilian is still actively competing on the dragon boat circuit with a local team. In short, our life together has been intricately bound up with paddle sports – due to our love for paddling, we even set up a company supplying paddling equipment since 2004.

Lilian: When our kids were old enough, we brought them to try out paddling. We had another objective for our son to start exercising regularly to manage his weight and we were proud to see him participate in this year’s Singapore Canoe Marathon. Our daughter, who is younger, has shown more of an interest in picking up canoeing of her own accord. We will start proper training for her when she turns 12 and support her in her dreams and aspirations!

Francis & Carol

FullSizeRenderFrancis Ng 1

Francis Ng, the SCF’s Vice President for Strategic Development, and Carol Fung, previously represented Singapore and Hong Kong, respectively, in Canoe Sprint. They have been married since 2003, and are now parents to four active kids turning various ages between 1 and 10 this year.

Carol: We met, of all places, on a golf cart at Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu. Both Singapore and Hong Kong had been invited to participate in the first Kenyir Regatta in the year 2000, and the different teams were housed in villas all over a large resort. The resort was so large that golf carts were used to pick up the paddlers to ferry them to different parts of the resort for activities such as trainings and meals. It just so happened that the golf cart that my teammates and I were on one morning stopped by the Singapore team’s villa to pick up more passengers. Francis was one of those who got on and the first one to say hi to us, and that was how we met. We have a scale model of a golf cart at home to remind us of how it all began.

Francis: We kept in touch for several months thereafter before becoming a couple in February 2001 on or about Valentine’s Day. We then dated long distance until we got married and saw each other only every 5-6 weeks when one of us would travel to either Hong Kong or Singapore. We used ICQ (the granddaddy of online instant messaging applications) to communicate a lot.

Carol: Going on dates was really expensive – this was in the days before budget airlines and cheap IDD came about. If both of us hadn’t been already working and earning a salary, I don’t think the relationship could have worked out. Sometimes, we would schedule trips so that they overlapped with competitions in Singapore or Hong Kong, to kill two birds with one stone. I even got to experience the Round Pulau Ubin race here in 2002.

Francis: As Carol retired from competitive kayaking after 2001 and I was still training and competing until we got married at the end of 2003 after the Asian Canoe Championships, it really helped that she could understand what I was going through and was supportive of what I was doing as well as the time I was committing then. And to now be able to come back and help out with the Federation at this point in my life (and to sneak off to paddle occasionally) is possible only because of her support and understanding that this is something that I want to do for the sport – to take Singapore canoeing to the next level not only in terms of results at the elite levels but also by building a greater sense of community across the sport’s various stakeholders. 

Carol: Although there were long periods when we didn’t see each other when we were dating, trust was never an issue because I basically knew what his daily routines were like – wake up, go for training, head to work, go for more training, return home for dinner and then sleep, before the cycle would repeat. In fact, when he proposed, he screened this funny home-made video, which his teammates and colleagues helped film, about a typical day in his life as part of the proposal.

Francis: We took some of our wedding pictures in Moskito K1s and Carol was really wobbly as by then it had already been a couple of years since she had been in a K1, let alone a newer (at that time) design. Thankfully, neither of us went for a swim that day! Now that we are parents, we hope that our children will follow in our footsteps and grow to love the sport in time. The older two have begun already learning to paddle with a group of other kids and Carol has even come out of retirement to paddle with the kids on occasion (we will see about getting her back in a K1 in time to come). It will be absolutely wonderful to be able to form a family K4 eventually and we look forward very much to that day.

 Bill & Xiao HuiBill Lee 1 

Bill Lee and Ng Xiao Hui have been married since 2011. Xiao Hui has been canoeing since her ACJC and NUS days and was part of the now-dormant Singapore National Marathon Team from 2004-2006. Xiao Hui retired from the competitive scene in 2009 while Bill, whose passion for the sport stretches back to his days in ACJC, currently represents Singapore in Canoe Sprint.

Bill: I was fresh out of the army and really wanted to return to paddling, so I took the first chance I got by taking part in the 2007 Singapore Canoe Marathon in the men’s K2 category, without having touched a kayak for two years since I entered the army. That was where I first met Xiao Hui. She and her partner were wash riding our K2 for almost the whole distance (28km!!) and obviously, my ego was desperately trying to get her off my wash but to no avail 🙁

Xiao Hui: Yeah, I still remember thinking to myself “where did this guy come from, how come his K2 is so slow HAHA.” And throughout the race, he kept screaming to his partner to paddle faster.

Bill: So anyway, after the race, I went up to her and we started talking because I recognised her as my senior in ACJC. We had a good laugh over the race and from then on, we kept in touch and connected due to our common interest in canoeing.

Xiao Hui: We went on to take part in two mixed doubles events the following year, and won both! One was some competition organised by the People’s Association and the other was the Round Pulau Ubin race.

Bill: It helped that she was very active in her competitive paddling days and understood the regimen of being a National athlete, so she was very supportive of me returning to the scene after our marriage. I remembered taking a break from training and competition in 2011 to prepare for our wedding, and it was also the same year my teammates competed in the SEA Games. So when the wedding was over, I sought her ‘approval’ to pursue my dream to compete in the SEA Games, and after rejoining the National Team in 2012, have since gone on to compete in many World Championships, as well as the Asian Games, so I’m really very appreciative that she is so supportive of my ‘career’.

Xiao Hui: I asked him before if he regretted marrying me and missing the SEA Games in 2011, but he replied that marrying me is once in a lifetime whereas he will have many chances to compete in the SEA Games. Luckily (for him) he said that, or he will never hear the end of it hahahaha.

Bill: It can be quite tough for Xiao Hui because every year I will attend 2-3 training camps or overseas competitions, and each time I can be away for as long as 5 weeks. She gets very emotional about it but yet she never fails to send me off every time even though she hates it. And she always turns up for any local competition that I’m participating in to support me, even time trials! So I would like to take this opportunity, since this is a piece about Valentine ’s Day, to show my love and appreciation for her and how much her support means to me 🙂

 Samuel & Xintianimage1

Samuel Wong and Yeung Xintian have been married since 2013, and have been together for more than a decade. They both represented Singapore in canoeing in their younger days at different points in time (Samuel in Canoe Sprint and Marathon, and Xintian in Marathon), and captained their varsity canoeing team. They now live out their retirement years paddling on weekends and exploring other sports such as cycling.

Xintian: We first met in NJC as classmates, when we were both young, foolish, and had never seen so many members of the opposite gender gathered in one place. I was then in the symphonic band, and Samuel was this tall, sunburnt guy with floppy Aaron Kwok-style hair, but I thought he was very cool.

Samuel: Xintian was my opposite: short and dark, and very outgoing. I was quite shy, but I was drawn to her even though she was a little eccentric – looking back, maybe more than a little eccentric. I encouraged her to join canoeing so that I could spend more time with her (ulterior motive!).

Xintian: After 10 years in band, I took the leap and joined canoeing, but only partly because of Samuel! I wanted to try something challenging, and I got it – I almost died that first training from all that pain. Samuel and I grew closer, and because canoeing was so time-consuming, most of our dates were pre-training lunches or post-training dinners at Golden Mile Food Centre and walks along the debris-speckled beach in Kallang. Very romantic. We would also ‘date’ on water. He would also paddle beside me after trainings to help me with my technique, and nagged incessantly at me whenever he paddled past and thought I was slacking.

Samuel: Canoeing was such a huge part of my life, and I’m glad that Xintian was able to share that with me. I basically had no life outside of training and school, and I’m quite a homebody. Xintian is very sociable and enjoys novelty, and with her, I got to experience things I wouldn’t otherwise have tried.

Xintian: Samuel is very serious, and he always pushes me to do better and train harder. He also encouraged me to try out for the national team, back when I was very noob (and so I dragged Abigail (Chen) to try out with me, haha), and also supported me when I took a year off after graduating from university to paddle. He still scolds me for not pushing hard enough when we paddle on weekends, and when we go cycling as well (to him ‘recreational sports’ is an oxymoron).

Samuel: When we both started working and weren’t able to paddle as much, it was a period of transition trying to adjust to no longer being a competitive athlete. However, I’m grateful that Xintian and I were able to move into this new phase of life together, and to grow as a couple. I’m also glad that the scene has developed so much from when I first started paddling, and I’m counting on Xintian to produce the next world champion!

 Lucas & Suzanne

Lucas.Suzanne1

Lucas Teo and Suzanne Seah currently represent Singapore in Canoe Sprint. They have been dating since 2011 and, when they are not churning up the water during training, this highly animated and wacky couple can often be found comparing hair length and muscle tone, among other things.

Suzanne: We met in 2010 when Lucas completed his National Service and started training with the team again regularly. He was very quiet so I had to make the first move to talk to him (if it had been up to him we would still be strangers). We started talking and emailing each other more at the end of 2010, as I was in Guangzhou for the 2010 Asian Games and bored during the breaks in training and competition, while he was in Singapore doing fun stuff. Thereafter, we became closer during the year-end winter training camp where there were only 6 of us to keep each other company. Finally we got together as a couple on 15 February 2011 via, of all things, MSN.

Lucas: We are very different. Suzanne likes to shop and read while I like to play computer games. She likes romantic and slapstick comedies, while I dig game related/science fiction movies. I guess kayaking is the one thing that binds us together. Perhaps it’s because of the sport we realised we both like to be strong; the Incredible Hulk is our sporting hero. And it’s fun to compete against one another when it comes to training, e.g. to see who is more ripped, who did more bench pulls or pull ups/leg lifts/presses, or who swam faster (it may come as a surprise – but then maybe not – that Suzanne doesn’t always lose haha). 

Suzanne: We literally spend every sleeping and waking moment together, 24/7. I make breakfast while he cooks lunch and dinner; we take turns. I guess the difference between us and married couples is that we are living off our parents using kayaking as an excuse to have couple time 😉 I’m kidding.

Lucas: It really helps the growth of our relationship that we have similar goals – both of us are working towards winning our respective events at this year’s SEA Games this year. For example she helps me with my technique while I force her to eat more food. We both try doing some extra weights together to make ourselves stronger, and take turns to motivate each other to show up for training whenever the spirit is weak. 

Suzanne: There’s nothing much to balance in our relationship. I guess maybe we are a little short on romantic dates and grand gestures, but both of us agree that we are a little strapped for energy and time so we have happily agreed to do away with that. It actually makes managing/balancing a relationship much easier than dating someone outside of the team because they wouldn’t get it (the lack of time/energy/money insert “HOW CAN YOU LIKE TO TRAIN MORE THAN YOU LIKE GOING OUT WITH ME!!? Choose now, training or me!!!!” see, there can be so much drama). Plus we see each other at our worst (dirty/sweaty/tired/hungry) and we still love each other so I guess that counts for something (plus there will be no surprises after marriage for sure).

Lucas: We are proud to represent Singapore together as a couple and as part of a team, and the support we provide each other can only benefit the both of us as we grow as athletes, teammates and as a couple.