“Great rowers are physiological freaks; but, that quality is minimal compared to their psyche and to their ability to essentially experience pain – and experience discomfort – and yet be able to do the work knowing that it’s going to continue.”
— Fritz Hagerman, Sports Physiologist

“We go backwards so that when we are leading the pack, we can see the rest suffer.”
— Anonymous

Rowing- How It All Began

Aisyah started rowing in 2004 when she was talent-scouted by ex-national rower at an indoor rowing competition held in school. With only 1 month in the boat, she won her first medal with her first Doubles partner, Ong Shuying. In 2007, she was partnered up with Silver medalist at SEA Games 2005, Elsie Lim, for a Doubles event. After winning her first Bronze medal at the 2007 SEA Games, Aisyah took a break from Rowing because of a major injury and also because she thought that Rowing “had no future”.

Not surprisingly, she picked up Rowing again in 2010 and within a few months of getting back on the boat, she won her first medal in an Asian regatta. Aisyah was later put together with Youth Olympic Games rower, Joanna Chan, where they rowed in a Pair and won a Bronze in the 2011 SEA Games.

Currently, Aisyah is rowing in a single scull in the lightweight category. Whether in a crew boat or alone, Rowing has played a big part in Aisyah’s life and she hopes that one day, she is able to give back to the sport by making it one of the most successful sports in Singapore.

The Very Important People

Aisyah has been training under the belt of different coaches. Every coach, whether they trained her for a month, or for a year, has shaped Aisyah to the rower she is today- determined and disciplined. She would like to commend these inspiring people for the time they have spent for her, and most importantly, for believing in her:

2005-2007: Raihan Bin Omar (Singapore) & Nicholae Vulpe (Romania)

2007: G.P. Horan (New Zealand)

2010: Sasa Mimic (Serbia) & James Wood (UK)

2011: Martijn Versteeg (Netherlands) & John Holland (Ireland)

2012-present: Goken Sakamoto (Japan) & Alan Bennett (Australia)

2015: Aflie Young (Australia) & Alan Bennett

Aisyah is also grateful to the Singapore Rowing Association and the Singapore Sports Institute for their continuous support in helping her to achieve great heights in the sport.

Another group of amazing individuals who have helped her in this journey is these generous people who have contributed in various ways:

  • James and Annie Taylor, Sydney: for the shelter above Aisyah’s head throughout her stay in Sydney in 2013
  • Sarah Hill, Sydney: for providing a home for Aisyah in 2014
  • Lizzi Chapman and Peter Shephard, Sydney: for lending their vehicles for Aisyah to use to get around to training and to racing venues with ease
  • Nick Garratt, Sydney: for his training programmes for the Mosman Club rowers which made the team one of the bests in New South Wales
  • Dr Cormac O’Muircheartaigh, Singapore: for all his expert medical advice
  • Physiotherapist Marguerite King, Sydney: for always fixing Aisyah
  • Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore: for always supporting Aisyah’s sporting career

Overcoming The Obstacles

There is a saying that goes, “success is not to be measured by the position someone has reached in life, but the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed”. Aisyah has faced plenty of challenges in her life, most of them leading up to a major race. But with every obstacle she faced, it made her emerge stronger and better.

  • In April 2007, Aisyah ripped off her toenail from a cycling incident. In December that year, she won her first ever SEA Games medal in Thailand.
  • In December 2008, Aisyah tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee from “trying out a new sport” in university. In February 2009, she had an ACL reconstruction that put her out from doing any physical activities for 9 months. She thought that was the end of her Rowing career but she got back in the boat in 2010.
  • In December 2011, the whole of Singapore Rowing team was down with food poisoning at the SEA Games in Indonesia. Despite having just recovered from high fever, Aisyah won 2 Bronze medals in the games.
  • In 2013, Aisyah broke her nose, fractured her orbital floor and tore her retina in a freak accident 2 months before the SEA Games in Myanmar. Within a week, she was already back on her boat and won a local regatta the week after. Later on, she made history by clinching the Gold medal in the SEA Games that year- the first Gold medal for an individual event for Rowing for Singapore.
  • Throughout the whole of 2014, Aisyah was diagnosed with rib stresses which almost led to a stress fracture if not detected earlier. It affected her training for the 2014 Asian Games and led to a series of losses and disappointments which spiralled down to Aisyah having a mental breakdown.
  • With the help of a mental skills coach, Mr Hansen Bay, Aisyah regained her confidence in racing and bounced back to win several Gold medals in Australian Regattas the following year and 2 Bronze medals in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
  • In preparation for the Olympics Qualification, Aisyah faced a roadblock in her journey where her savings ran dry and she couldn’t afford training gear and living expenses in Sydney. This motivated her to launch a crowdfunding campaign which received an overwhelming support from her fans. With the immense support that she received, she was able to continue training with a peace of mind and go on to become Singapore’s first Olympic rower.

When you want something,

all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

-Paulo Coelho