He is more famous in Singapore, for his running than his water prowess.
But yesterday, the Singapore Blade Runner left behind his running gear, picked up a pair of paddles and took to the Punggol Waterway.
Blade Runner Mohammad Shariff, 44, a motivational speaker and athlete, was taking part in the Fun Race category at this year’s 12th edition of the Canoe Marathon and he had a good time participating in the race.
It was the Blade Runner’s first time taking part in a canoeing race – and he had only made up his mind to participate in it, a mere two weeks beforehand. But he was still game enough for the challenge, even though he can’t swim.
“There were canoeing tryouts in the morning for those taking part in the race. After a few rounds, I gained enough confidence to take part in the race,” he said.
Mohammad Shariff’s biggest challenge in the Canoe Marathon was being able to coordinate with his partner in the two-seater canoe.
“We must work together very well and our paddling speed must be the same,” he said.
But for a first attempt at a canoeing race, Singapore’s Blade Runner is very happy with his maiden canoeing event, having completed the 6km challenge in about two hours. And yes, he definitely had so much fun during the race – that he may even take part in much longer canoe marathons in the future.
“A 20km canoeing race would be good. But I think I’ll learn how to swim first before tackling that distance,” he quipped.
In the meantime though, Mohammad Shariff will stick to racing 6km and less when it comes to canoeing. After all, he explained that canoeing is very different to running “because it really exercises the upper body and is a total workout for the entire body” whereas running mainly focuses on building lower body strength.
More than 700 Canoeing Enthusiasts
Singapore’s Blade Runner was not the only one who enjoyed himself at the Canoe Marathon though. More than 700 canoeing enthusiasts showed up at the Anchorvale Community Club last Sunday to take part in one of the three race categories – the Competitive Open Race (28km for men and 22km for women), the 14km Competitive Race and the 6km Fun Race.
Amongst them was Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, 37, who paddled to raise funds for the Para-Canoeing Community. On his inaugural canoeing experience, he said, “It is a very therapeutic and cooling experience. Paddling solo really gives you time to think.”
Mr Lee paddled about 10km to raise funds for the Para-Canoeing community and was trained for this project by Team Singapore canoeing captain Tay Zi Qiang, 25.
And according to Zi Qiang, the Minister of State for National Development is a natural at canoeing. He said, “Desmond (Mr Lee) has had more than five training sessions with me to prepare himself for this race. I taught him everything I know and he picked it up quite fast, so he is really good at this.”
Zi Qiang also teamed up with the Minister and took part in the 14km Competitive Category in the Canoe Marathon. The national canoeist was involved in the canoeing tryouts too, which were organised throughout the course of the day for members of the public or passers-by who were interested to learn more about the sport.
And Singapore’s canoeing captain was pretty pleased with the participants taking part in the tryouts. He said, “They were very enthusiastic and willing to learn, so that is the main thing.” Those taking part came from all walks of life and they ranged from total beginners who had never picked up a paddle before, to those who had some level of skill.
Overcoming Fear of the Water
But one thing is certain though, for those who are interested to take up canoeing: They cannot be afraid of the water. Zi Qiang said, “There will be those who are scared of the water, so it can be quite scary at times.” But he added that it is a fear that aspiring canoeists must be able to completely overcome.
National canoeist Suzanne Seah, 24, also agrees. She said, “In fact, I capsized over 60 times when I first picked up canoeing. But you must have the tenacity to not give up when that happens. When you are finally able to go off, the feeling is very rewarding.”
Canoeing in the Heartlands
A total of $40,000 was raised for the Para-Canoeing community and this was the first time that the event was staged in the heartlands.
Previously, the Canoe Marathon had been held in the Marina area.
On why the event was taken to the heartlands this year, Minister Lee said, “In the heartlands, it is a good way to bring the sport to the community. Punggol is a young community with beautiful waterways and is a good way that people can be introduced to the sport.”
He also hopes that with Singaporeans becoming more involved with sports and outdoor activities, canoeing can perhaps eventually become as popular as running and cycling.
Gold Medal in Olympics For Canoeing
And with Singapore having event winning canoeing coaches like Denes Szaszak, 31, canoeing may not just improve in popularity – but Singapore may even have a gold medallist for canoeing in the Olympics.
Denes, who emerged winner of the Men’s Competitive Open category 28km for the third time, said, “Some of my students are showing signs of potential. I think they could become Olympic champions someday.” But for Denes himself, successfully defending his title at the Canoe Marathon is enough for the time being.
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