Catching Up with… SPD’s SEA Games Pride, Christine Chia

SPD arranged play dates for children from the Building Bridges EIPIC Centre earlier this week as part of the June holiday’s activities and the children had an interesting afternoon with [...]

The South East Asian (SEA) Games returns to Singapore after 22 years. Held from 5 to 16 June, the 28th SEA Games will be hosted by Singapore for the fourth time, after having done so in 1973, 1983 and 1993. The timing is especially significant to Singapore given our nation’s golden jubilee celebrations this year as well.

It would be triple the excitement for SPD occupational therapist Christine Chia, who canoes on the national squad, as it is the first time that the women’s canoeing event is included in the SEA games. Working hard to juggle her national duties and responsibilities at SPD, the 23-year-old with a trademark smile competed in the Women’s C1 200m event on 9 June. We caught up with Christine for a quick chat on her journey thus far.

UPDATES (U): First things first, I think many of us are not sure of the differences between kayaking and canoeing. Can you enlighten us?
Christine Chia (C): A kayak is propelled by a double bladed paddle in a seated position whereas a canoe is propelled by a single bladed paddle on one side, in a half-kneel position.

U: And what got you started on canoeing?
C: I started out with kayaking in junior college as a co-curricular activity and was in that sport for six years as I loved the feeling of being on the water and competing. I decided to pick up canoeing about a year ago when I got to know about the growing opportunities in the canoe events for women.

U: What are your biggest accomplishments in the sport to date?
C: I have only competed at the school level for the past six years and have just started training with the national team last year. This SEA Games will be my first regional competition.

U: What is your training regime like?
C: We train about 11 to 12 times a week, twice a day. Training includes paddling, weights and running as canoeing requires a lot of strength and endurance on top of the technique involved to be efficient and fast on water.

U: What would be your ultimate achievement?
C: I hope to win a SEA Games medal for Singapore!

U: How is it like to juggle being a professional at SPD and your sport?
C: Managing as a junior therapist and training at the national level simultaneously was a huge challenge. It was extremely taxing juggling work and training in the first few months. I could only train after work from 6.30pm to about 8pm. With only an hour of daylight left, I would then have to paddle after dark.

Thankfully, SPD, my colleagues and manager have been very supportive, understanding and accommodating to allow me to represent Singapore at the SEA Games. The organisation granted me several months of leave so that I could train full-time to better prepare myself for the games.

U: What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage to overcome it?
C: Switching disciplines from kayaking to canoeing was a difficult journey. With only one year to learn the canoe, such as starting from balancing to technique and controlling the boat direction, it was like learning to walk again. I took training one day at a time and held the SEA Games as my end goal in mind.

U: Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
C: “Never give up.”

U: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
C: I’m always inspired by my coaches and teammates. My coach pushes me to achieve beyond the limits that I set for myself. He always reminds me to look at the little progresses that I have made over time, especially when I have bad days and feel like giving up. Seeing how my teammates push themselves hard through pain also makes me push myself harder at every training.

Christine, you have done us proud at the SEA Games! Well done!

Photos of training by Shaun Ho, Sport Singapore