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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dear fellow Singaporeans,

I am a typical university student who is passionate about Canoe Polo. I know many of you never even heard of the sport, Canoe Polo. That's why I set up this blog years ago to promote this sport and continue to push this sport to more people in Singapore.

With election coming and like many young Singaporeans, I am inspired by Nicole Seah to stand forward and fight for what we believe we should. I have been fighting for this sport all these while. Last year, I attended the National Day Rally Youth Forum which was held in SIM. I had the chance to meet up with Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and asked him about funding for non-olympic sport.

I did a blog post on SIM Blogs which you will find more details. (Please read it before you continue..)

This event was reported on Channel News Asia on the very same day.

After our conversation, he shook my hand and told me to write to him. It was mid September and nearing exam period. So I decided to write to him after my exam.


I printscreen the email, it is stated 3 Nov 2011. I spent the whole night to type it out. I am not a good writer. I just go straight to the point.

Let me introduce myself in details. I was previously from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP). I was in the Ngee Ann Canoeing Club which Canoe Polo is under the same club as the Canoeing club (NACC). I was in the publicity for 1 year before moving to become President for the club. Before I enter NP, I never heard of Canoe Polo at all. For me, I like to take up challenges and thus, I joined this sport and it has been 7 years since. Till now, I am still an active alumni of NACC. Before I enter SIM, there is no Canoe Polo in the school. Even the sport advisors have not heard of Canoe Polo. For the passion of this sport, I decided to start this club and became the founder of SIM Canoe Polo. I felt that it is a sad thing that many people do not have the chance to experience this sport. So, I would like to promote this sport to more people because this is a wonderful sport that combines both canoeing and water polo skills.

However, starting a new club is not easy. Canoe Polo is a very expensive sport as it requires many equipment. Paddle, helmet, life vest, spray decks, boat, goal post and water polo ball. Fortunately, I am able to borrow equipments from my NP juniors, though they are not very willing and it is not very nice to use other's equipments and win them during competition. My networking during my Canoe Polo days paid off as i managed to gather enough experienced Canoe Polo players from SP, TP and NP to play for SIM. For our very first IVP competition during the National Canoe Polo Competition in 2008, we won 2nd for Women IVP and 3rd for Men IVP.
And we continue to win more medals in 2009 and 2010.

2009 - Women IVP Champion and Men IVP Bronze

2010 - Men IVP 2nd

I do not want the team to be just have experienced players. So we started recruitment last year and now we are expanding. We are not just team mates, we are a family.

From our discussion during the National Day Rally Youth Forum, I understood that you said that there will not be equal funding for all sports. But can we at least have some minimum funding?

Below is an email from Marilyn, ex-captain for the women Canoe Polo National Team.

On the world stage, right now there are at least 60 teams participating in World Champs, this means, we are closer than ever to being included in the Olympics.
Of course, it's easier to say, just that it can sound more encouraging than not to think about it at all.

Anyway, here are our records, very briefly.
Let me know if you need more info:

2003 Oceania Champs
2004 World Champs Miyoshi - Won Hong Kong (Ranked 16/17)
2005 Asian Champs Malaysia - Won Japan (2/3) - Silver
2006 World Champs Amsterdam - Won Czech Rep (Ranked 19/20)
2008 World Champs Canada - Won Sweden, USA & Russia (Ranked 14/17)
2009 Asian Champs Taipei - Won Taiwan (Ranked 2/3) - Silver
2010 World Champs Milan - Won Denmark, USA & Russia (Ranked 15/18)

So far, SCF has been supporting in terms of our accreditation fees and insurance.
Other than that, we have been highlighted right from the start that we have to self-fund for the trips, or seek for sponsorships.
Even though, Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF) paid for their accreditation fees and insurance, it is only total up to $1,000. As compare to each players have to fork out almost $4,000 for the trip to pay for their air tickets, accommodation, transport of equipment of their own boat, paddle, life vest, helmet and food. The girls work and save up for their oversea trip. I felt quite sad for them because of their passion, they used their saving to pay for all the trip and have to earn back again. The cycle just go on and on and they can not do this forever. Some quitted. The men team already gave up.

Canoe Polo is under SCF because we do not have a federation for ourselves. We were just conveniently placed under SCF because we have canoeing element. But I felt that Canoe Polo is just like an adopted child in a family and we have no right to ask for anything. We just have to find out own "food" to survive and if lucky, we have some leftovers. After every National Canoe Polo Competition, all profits made from the competition all goes to SCF. And this year due to YOG, we have no budget to book a swimming pool for competition. Luckily, the National Team set up a playing court with SCF at Bedok Reservoir. However, the court is in very bad condition right now. It is not even in a good condition to start off with as there were very little fund to set up the place. Because of low budget, the right kind of wood is not used. The platform is not in proper alignment and the rope went loose and goal post sank into the water.

For SIM Canoe Polo, we store our equipments at Kallang SCF. Few months back, our boat shed that SCF rented out to us was badly damaged due to falling branches. Luckily, our boats were in Bedok Reservoir as it was the competition period. It has been few months since SCF said they will repair the shed. Until now, nothing has been done.

and this is where we store our other equipments.

It is quite empty because I took out many other equipments in order to show the space. And often we found our life vests and spray decks infested with ants after we return every weekends. Unlike Canoeing and Dragon Boat, they may be water sports but their contact with water is at minimal. For Canoe Polo, we do a lot of bracing and capsizing so we are in contact with water a lot more times than them. Kallang water is not very clean and many of my team mates and I sometime suffered from rashes. Recently, some of our life vests were stained by some oil spilled from motor boats. We need to hang and drop goal posts from Nicoll highway bridge to train. This is the only way we can train as we do not have any swimming pool in SIM.

2 years ago, I went to Japan with my NP alumni for Canoe Polo competition. We were amazed by the training/competition grounds they have.

They have very solid platform for people to walk on. Unlike the one we have in Singapore.

The flooring is coming out and it is floating on styrofoam. There is a possibility that someone will fall into the water.
In Japan, their count also have small bridge to link to the platforms and they have 3 courts. Japanese people as old as 40 are still playing the sport actively.
Each court has it own timer, scoreboard and even basket to store the balls.

The Japanese children are exposed to canoe polo since young. The goal post can be adjust by the level mechanism and change the height according to tide and for the younger players. Right now, the only way to experience Canoe Polo is to be a student of NP, SP, TP, NTU, NUS, NUS High school and SIM. In total, we over 30 teams from 7 institutions. We hope that more school is able to join us, like RP, NYP and SMU.

Dear Sir, I really hope that Canoe Polo can have some funding to build a proper court for everyone to train and compete in. One person can make a difference. Here am I, wanting to make a different and help the whole Canoe Polo community. Do give us your support. Thank you for spending your time reading this email. I hope to hear from you soon.

Warmest Regards,
Alvin Lee
Founder and Captain of SIM Canoe Polo

They read my email the very next day or I should say on the same day that I wrote on 3 Nov 2011. This email was even forwarded to Teo Ser Luck and the rest.

My question to Dr Vivian is, what is the progress of this issue so far? I have yet to receive a email on this. Coming this tuesday, it will be 6months exactly. Beside avoiding the public confrontation of revealing the accounts for the YOG, are you also trying to avoid this issue (funding for non-Olympic sports). 6months is a long time. Have you been actively discussing this with those you forwarded to?

I have enough of seeing foreign talents coming in to compete for Singapore. So what if they win medals? They are not PURE Singaporeans. I don't feel proud at all. The real proud moment is when Rainer Ng won 50m backstroke during YOG last year. This is what I will really call a proud moment which a true Singaporean won at world stage.

Anyway, what are we so desperate to keep winning medals on world stage? Does one gold medal in Olympic bring in revenue for our country? I don't think so. Instead, we are giving 1 million dollar to whoever can win an Olympic gold medal for Singapore. We have been spending so much money to train all these athletes and it is usually in the sports that we considered as "higher chance of winning" sports. You said that funding on the sport also depends on the number of people who play it. I am sure that there are many leisure and competitive dragonboaters around. We have a handful of rugby clubs also. But I don't think they receive much funding.

I think we should allocate certain amount of funds to promote the sports. We need to have a sporting culture in Singapore. By hosting YOG, doesn't mean that instantly we will have sporting culture here. It takes years. But have we even started to cultivate this sporting culture here in Singapore?

I may not be staying in the Holland-Bukit Timah area, but to the voters at the area there: Do you want to vote for a MP who is in charge of Sports but for almost 6 months... No reply to a citizen who is concern about the future of sports in Singapore??? What makes you think he will help you when he is elected again??? PAP whole day keep saying track record track record... yaaaa... track record of not doing work is it?? If you did, show me the progress of this issue!!

Seriously, Dr Vivian, you just made me feel like prop on TV just to make you look good that you seem "concern" for us. Like what my friends and I like to use this chinese phrase, act yi ge (一个)Act to to be one. Don't understand? I guess you have not been communicating with the YOUTH that you are suppose to be in charge of.

Please, Vote wisely.