On Aug 26, 2022, history was made when the National University of Singapore wrote to us, signalling its intention to set up an SRA-affiliated rowing club.
Singapore has had rowing clubs or societies in ITE and international schools, but in a university? Never.
NUS is also the alma mater of our only two Olympians: Saiyidah Aisyah (Rio 2016) and Joan Poh (Tokyo 2020).
The latter was the main driving force behind the founding of NUS Boat Club or NUSBC - and is now its head coach, on top of being a full-time national rower training for this year’s Asian Games (and beyond).
We speak to Joan to find out more.
What’s the idea behind NUSBC?
Joan: In wanting to create a sustainable as well as high-performance pipeline to build up rowing here in Singapore, it was very instinctive to start a varsity rowing club. The relationship I had with NUS as a student, and now as an alumnus, plus the pride I feel for the school - these have all been huge factors too.
Also not forgetting how NUS is strategically located in the west, just a 20-minute bicycle ride away from SRA’s base at Pandan Reservoir. I still fondly remember my undergraduate days where I would be down at Pandan rowing 12km and running 6km before heading to NUS and hitting the books.
How did it become a fully formed sports club?
It was not all smooth sailing because as much as we got tremendous support from the NUS, we still had to find our first member to move things along. Apart from reaching out to existing students, we also tried to get referrals from junior college teachers and polytechnic sports team coaches, but our efforts didn’t bear any fruit.
Until Vihaan came along. He started rowing under Jim (one of our learn-to-row coaches) about three months ago, and became our first NUSBC member and student leader. Vihaan’s truly stepped up and he’s been connecting so well with new members.
Who else is involved with NUSBC?
I will be coaching with the assistance of two other national team members (Joanna Chan and Kang Yu Jia aka Panda). The remaining national team members will stand in for me when I’m competing or training overseas.
I am also thankful for NUSBC being under the charge of NUS athlete advisor/sports officer Zulhilmi Karim, who has gone the extra mile in administrative efforts while also getting us a booth at the university’s Student Life Fair, to help us with recruitment.
What kind of members is NUSBC looking for?
Considering that many elite rowers on the international stage picked up rowing only in universities, we’re looking out for students who have done competitive sport and/or aspire to compete at a high level. This is also bearing in mind how rowers often compete till a much later age (late 30s for men and early 30s for women).
All that said, we welcome anyone and everyone.
Will NUSBC members train and compete in on-water rowing only?
Since indoor rowing is going to be a pivotal training tool, it is likely NUSBC will be represented at the first Singapore Indoor Rowing Championships in 2024, too. (Editor’s note: more info on that soon!)
How has interest in NUSBC been so far?
We had 167 signups from the NUS Student Life Fair in August. Twenty-five came down for a first session at Pandan Reservoir; 12 are arranging to do so on another date. Those who had their first taste of rowing are already adding friends to the NUSBC Telegram group chat (https://t.me/+pr7_vD2PKb5kY2Vl). So I would say interest is growing!
If I’m an NUS student, how do I sign up? What will my experience be like?
Join the Telegram chat, or DM @joanpohxuehua on IG if you’re not on Tele. For now, we’re only meeting in-person every Sunday for the technical components of training. For the rest of the week, an easy-to-follow programme will be sent out to be done in small groups.
We believe in the process of natural selection. If you persevere, we are very sure NUSBC and rowing will have something to offer you.
A final message please.
Rowing has introduced me to the grittiest, kindest; most ambitious, generous and self-driven yet team-playing of people. My vision is for NUSBC to foster a similar community.
And remember, it does not matter where you are, it matters what you want to be.