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Yes We Can, Paddles Up!
Posted date: 28-Apr-2017

By: Joyce Kwok


More often, on the mention of dragon boating, many would think only able-bodied and energetic physique could expand that kind of stamina rowing the boats fast and furious. But is that really true?


To get deeper insights on the dragon boat sport for laymen enthusiasts like us, we had a quick chat with Desmond Koh, 44, chairperson of the inaugural Dragon Boat (DB) Hearts Challenge held in March for both the typical dragon boat athletes and atypical group comprising the less privileged communities in Singapore. The high flying HR business partner in a US MNC is also a sports leader actively involved in Team U Sports’ dragon boating activities.


Desmond (On the left) with other volunteers





U Sports:       How did your love for the sport came about?

Desmond:        It started 10 years ago when I very much wanted to break away from a sedentary lifestyle to try out a team sport. Then, I chanced upon an e-newsletter from U Sports which gave me such great opportunities to take part in the adrenaline-rushing team activity.


U Sports:       What are some of the misconceptions and challenges about the sport?

Desmond:        Many think that dragon boating is only for the strongest and fittest. But there’s also the mental aspect of ‘Mind over Body’. The sport emphasizes highly on commitment, team spirit and words of encouragement from fellow team mates can help a long way in overcoming all sorts of fears and challenges.




U Sports:     Understand that you were actively involved in organising the inaugural Dragon Boat (DB) Hearts Challenge which took place in March.  Can you tell us more about what DB Hearts is and what were your motivations in organizing the event?


Desmond:        DB Hearts is a non-profit organisation run by a group of volunteers, working towards making dragon boat more accessible and inclusive. We are a band of like-minded volunteers who strives to create a difference in this sport and establish a platform for equal opportunities, allowing the less-abled to experience a real race event.


U Sports:        What were some of the challenges you’ve faced and key takeaways from the event?


Desmond:        The key challenge was in recruiting participants to join us for the inaugural race. We were also faced with time constraints the recruitment process. Without substantial numbers, we may fall short of the delivery of the race goals expected by stakeholders, thereby affecting subsequent races from materialising.


Furthermore, we were unsure on the receptiveness of the paddlers who are used to more intense competitive races. But it appears that our worries were unfounded. Through the event, we witnessed the care, patience and understanding qualities from these paddlers.  Sincere friendships were forged and we could sense the strong unity in this community which surpasses the level of inclusiveness we were hoping to achieve.  It was really a fulfilling event spiritually as you can see that everyone was having fun, camaraderie regardless able or not able bodied.





U Sports:       Can you briefly share with us your involvement in the dragon boating team?    

Desmond:        Currently, I’m taking on advisory role as Team Advisor after having spent 8 years as the Team Convenor for the dragon boat team. I also enlist the help and collaboration of U Sports to run dragon boat race event for paddlers with special profile such as the physically and mentally challenged, cancer survivors, active agers.


U Sports:       How do you feel being developed as a sports leader with U Sports?  

Desmond:        It was an enriching journey and has opened up my horizon in terms of managing and leading a team. I was given plentiful opportunities from U Sports to be groomed into a leader. I’m grateful for the empowerment given to me to run a team that is now one of the most established local dragon boat teams.


U Sports:       What are your goals in 2017 for the Dragon Boating community?

Desmond:        Continue to raise awareness about the sport to a larger outreach, including the active agers who have probably missed out on this opportunity in their early years.




“It is not about the effort of an individual but the collective synergy of the team that drives the performance of the team.  No other sport could make you sit together in a boat 2 hours with a buddy next you, putting in every effort going through tough training where the camaraderie gets built by the sheer determination trying to reach a target distance within a number of strokes, setting a goal to improve with every training.  This is where I look forward to every weekend after having much stressful week at work.  This is a place where one enjoys the company of friends amidst sun and water.  There is no other better ways to stay healthy rather than coup up at home or the shopping malls.” – says Desmond.



Check out the happenings of U Sports Dragon Boating today!