A Dragon Boat race in Singapore – With Special Needs Participants

Ms Grace Fu (left, third from front, in blue) and her team paddles to the race starting line.

Ms Grace Fu (front row, third from right, in blue) and her team paddles to the race starting line.

This was a dragon boat race in Singapore with a difference. It comprised of special needs participants, such as from the Special Olympics in Singapore. To find out more, do read on.

She is more widely known in the Singapore political scene – rather than as a sportswoman. After all, that’s because Ms Grace Fu is Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ms Fu is also the Advisor to Yuhua Grassroots Organisations.

But yesterday, Ms Fu temporarily set aside her duties as a Singapore Minister – and took to the waters around the scenic Jurong Lake to take part in a dragon boat race – with special needs participants.

Enjoyed her dragon boat experience

Coming back after a hard workout.

Coming back after a hard workout.

Ms Fu had been in the same dragon boat as student volunteers from the National Technological University and members from the event’s beneficiary groups. These were the Singapore Disability Sports Council, Special Olympics, Delta Senior School and Christian Outreach to the Handicapped.

And the Minister definitely enjoyed her dragon boating experience. She said, “We have very little training, but our team got together and showed that if you look after one another, we can achieve a lot as a group.”

“We didn’t do very well in the race, but I really enjoyed myself working together with my team members and completing it,” she added. This is a sharp contrast to Ms Fu’s slight nerves at the beginning, before she had climbed into the boat.

An annual event

Keep going! You can do it.

Keep going! You can do it.

The dragon boating race had been part of the Challenge ur Limits (CurL), an annual initiative from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU’s) Welfare Services Club (WSC), in collaboration with the People’s Association (PA) Water-Venture.

Said NTU Associate Provost (Student Life), Associate Professor Kwok Kian Woo, “Initiated by students, the CurL event aims to create opportunities for the community to interact with special needs individuals and participate in interesting activities that will challenge both their mental and physical limits.”

Agreed Ms Jeanine Tan, Group Director (Engagement Cluster – Interests) of the People’s Association, “Dragon boating offers a unique proposition that not only allows the special needs group a chance to interact with the community, but also an avenue for them to challenge themselves both physically and mentally.”

The NTU CurL initiative is currently into its 12th year. Besides dragon boating, a variety of other fun activities, including kite making, dancing, popiah making and raft relay competitions have taken place through the years, for previous CurL events.

Ms Grace Fu and her team mates.

Ms Grace Fu (third from right) and her team mates.

300 participants

300 participants from the beneficiary groups, as well as volunteers and corporations from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Housing Development Board (HDB), took part in the race.

The overall aim of the event had been to offer a platform for social interaction and understanding to see past people’s physical limitations – through dragon boating and other off-water activities.

Other participants had plenty of fun too

And like Ms Fu, the other participants definitely enjoyed the social interaction and team bonding sessions that dragon boating has to offer, too.

Said logistics packer 23-year-old Foo Zhan Wei, an athlete with Down Syndrome from the Special Olympics, “Through events like today’s, I got to know my team-mates better and also made new friends with other volunteers and participants.”

Loading and unloading is challenging for some special needs people.

Loading and unloading is challenging for the special needs participants

Special Olympics’ second participation in the event

The Special Olympics is taking part in the CurL event for the second straight year, explained the special needs organisation’s 24-year-old Sports Development Officer, Maria Heng. “We were happy to support this event again, as it benefits our athletes. They come here and make new friends and get to try out a new sport.”

Agreed fellow Special Olympics athlete Ho Weng Guan, a 21-year-old student, “I was really excited and eager to take part in this event, as it’s my first time doing dragon boating. Now I hope that I will get another chance to take part in a dragon boating event again.”

More exciting water sports initiatives by the PA

The positivity drawn by this successful event has encouraged the PA.

Said Ms Tan, “We will definitely continue to create innovative ways for them to further participate and interact with the community, through events such as the PA PAddleFest.”

You may also want to read these posts:

Handcycling To Glory

Singapore’s Cerebral Palsy Football Team

Table Tennis in Wheelchairs

Singapore Blade Runner returns to the Boston Marathon


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