TOKYO: Under the baking Tokyo summer heat and flanked by columns of empty spectator stands, Singapore rower Joan Poh got her first taste of Olympic action on Friday (Jul 23).
The nurse from Singapore found herself in the lane beside the world champion from Ireland, Sanita Puspure.
Puspure would eventually finish a comfortable first in the heat, while Poh, who was the first Singapore athlete to compete at the postponed Tokyo Olympics, finished sixth.
The top three in the heat – Puspure, Mexico’s Kenia Lechuga, and Greece’s Anneta Kyridou – progressed to the quarter-finals.
The bottom three – Trinidad’s Felice Aisha Chow, Uganda’s Kathleen Noble and Poh – will next compete in the Repechage portion of the competition on Saturday.
Reflecting on her Games debut, Poh noted that there were many lessons to take away for her next race.
“I think I tried my best, but sometimes I’m still not perfect … I’m learning, and … when we race we give our best, but then when you do your feedback and your reflection, and then you realise there are still areas here and there that you could work on,” she explained.
Lechuga and Puspure, who won the 2018 and 2019 titles at the World Rowing Championships, were the early leaders down the first stretch.
Competing in the second of six heats, Poh dropped down to fourth at the 500m mark, staying ahead of Uganda’s Noble.
However, Noble opened up a lead on Poh shortly after and never looked back as the Singaporean came home with a timing of 8:31.12.
Poh is the second rower to represent Singapore at the Games after Saiyidah Aisyah in 2016.
Team Singapore has sent 23 athletes across 12 sports to compete at the Games, the highest number that Singapore has contested in at the Olympics. Before Tokyo 2020, the most sports Singapore had competed in at an Olympics was nine at the 2012 London Games.
A total of 17 athletes, including Poh, are featuring at the Games for the first time.
“Everyone of us out there is giving our 100 per cent – it’s just that everybody’s 100 per cent is different from the other person’s 100 per cent,” said Poh.
“But no one is giving anything less than what they have in the tank. And so we are trying to find the extra to go more than the 100 per cent that we actually have. That’s pretty much it.”
The Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled to start in July last year, were postponed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.