PENANG canoeists and dragon boat rowers are determined to do well in next year’s Sukma (Malaysia Games), even undergoing practices in an indoor rowing pool.

Thirty-two athletes shortlisted for the training squad have resumed training earnestly since June 15 after coming out of almost a three-month hibernation. They try to make up for lost time following the imposition of the movement control order on March 18.

For the past one month, they have been practising in the indoor rowing pool at the Orient Fitness Centre in Farlim Complex, Air Itam, to regain their momentum and rhythm.

Soon (in white long-sleeved shirt) giving a pep talk to the state rowers. With him are Chai (in batik shirt) and Muhamad Hanif (with cap).

State Youth and Sports Committee chairman Soon Lip Chee and the Penang State Sports Council (PSSC) director Harry Chai visited the fitness centre yesterday to see the state of their preparation and encourage them to train hard as a team.

They gave a pep talk to the athletes and spoke with Penang Canoe Association president Muhamad Hanif, a former sports director of Universiti Sains Malaysia, before they watched coach Salleh Hashim, 40, put the athletes through a simulation exercise.

“This indoor rowing pool offers them very good practices. They need not have to worry about foul weather, high tide or low tide, rain or shine.

“They can gather here and train as a team safely to regain their fitness,” Soon said after his visit to the fitness centre.

The Penang state rowers going through a simulation exercise in the indoor rowing pool at Orient Fitness Centre under the watchful eyes of coach Salleh (wearing cap). Looking on are Soon (in white long-sleeved shirt), Chai (in batik shirt) and Lim (in orange shirt).

Chai said PSSC would go all out to assist the team prepare itself for Sukma that would be hosted by Johor.

“Whatever we can do for the team, we will do so like providing them with proper training centre and linking them up with gymnasiums.

“Whatever equipment they need, we will try to fulfil their requirements,” said Chai.

Muhamad said the training squad comprises 32 athletes, ranging from 16 to 22 years old. The team trains at the indoor rowing pool four times a month, with each training session lasting about three hours.

“We have a total of 42 rowers, including the 32 in the training squad. The other rowers are part of our development programme.

“Sometimes, the team trains at the Penang Water Sports Centre in Tanjung Bungah. We have also plans to do some training at the Bukit Merah lake,” said Muhamad, adding that head coach Franky Unyat is currently back in Sarawak.

Lim sets up the indoor rowing pool two years ago to encourage youths to take up rowing.

Eric Lim Chin Kok, who has been operating the Orient Fitness Centre since 2013, said he set up the indoor rowing pool two years ago to encourage more youths to take up rowing.

Locally designed and built, his indoor rowing pool can seat nine rowers on each side.

Lim said the Penang state dragon boat team was once a force to be reckoned with in international competitions but has lost its shine in recent years.

“We were among the top five teams in Asia. Dragon boat races were very popular in Penang and even attracted some 80 to 90 teams, including from the factories,” recalled Lim, 43, who had represented the state for about 15 years.

The Farlim Complex in Bandar Baru Air Itam where the Orient Fitness Centre operates an indoor rowing pool at the fourth floor.

The talent pool, according to Lim, seemed to have dried up after a dragon boat accident involving Chung Ling High School team in 2010.

The boat capsized during a practice at the North Strait, off the clan jetties, after colliding with a tugboat amid strong currents. The tragedy claimed six lives – a teacher and five students.

“Some clubs have used our indoor rowing pool for training. We want to encourage schools to take part and this is a safe place for them to train,” Lim said.

Furthermore, he said an indoor rowing pool could help the athletes to excel as proven by Canadian rowers who could not train outdoors during the long cold winters.

The Orient Fitness Centre operates from 7am to 11pm from Monday to Friday and 8am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Source: Buletin Mutiara