A Singaporean Rower's Road to Tokyo Olympics 2020

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Joan is a 28-year-old National rower (single sculler).
 
I knew Joan as a Registered Nurse before knowing her as an athlete. Other than her immediate nursing colleagues, many of us knew her by her very distinct tan, voice and audible conversations with her patients, but not by her name; and we knew she was into a sport but hardly knew what it was or exactly what involvement she had in it.
 
It’s hard to miss Joan because she’d always arrive for shift decked in sports attire, carrying a gigantic backpack.

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Sometime later, we came to know that whilst working full time as a Registered Nurse in an acute kidney dialysis unit, Joan was also training part time as a rower, with the dream of competing at the Olympics. Her routine involved waking up to row before sunrise, a short break in between before more land training, head for a quick nap in available corners of the hospital before reporting for an afternoon shift.
 
It was only until the recent months, when we stopped hearing that recognizable voice and audible conversations with her patients that we found out she’s taken an indefinite non-paid leave to receive training overseas as Tokyo Olympics 2020 closes in.
 
Previous plans to row in teams fell through due to unfortunate circumstances, and as the only national rower in Singapore today, Joan had no coach, no teammates and little to no funding --- which was why she juggled part-time training with a full-time nursing career. She soldiered on by intermittently taking leave from work to train in Hong Kong, China, Ireland, Greece and other far-flung locations --- and in the process, emptying her savings over a 3-year training period. Having come from a lower-income family, Joan has depended largely on her savings and her friends for loans to afford these trainings and coaching.
 
In one of our first conversations, I asked her what keeps her going despite repeated obstacles and curve balls thrown at her. She said 2 things do --- the deep desire to fly the Singapore flag at the Olympics (the highest accolade a country could receive in representation by an athlete), and the hopes to trailblaze for the ones who come from less privileged/resourced/turbulent childhood, like herself.
 
She’s fought hard and gone against all the odds the past 3 years, this is now her last lap of preparation for the Olympic Qualifiers in April, 2020.
 
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Support & Grants
 
In the recent months, the governing body of world rowing, FISA, has taken notice of Joan, and moved to offer coaching support for her Olympic ambition. She will however, have to pay for the coaching fees.
 
The hospital (Tan Tock Seng Hospital) has approached her to offer a negotiable/extendable non-paid leave in support of her pursuit.
 
Singapore Sports Council has also in this final year of her training, granted her an Olympic campaign that would cover some of her coaching, travelling, therapy and equipment costs – paid first by herself then reimbursed retrospectively. But she has recently received news that the grant amount would take a huge cut, which would affect her abilities to afford most imminently, her coaching fees. This has become quite a game changer for her, especially because she has already embarked on the training schedule and costs worked out based on the previous grant amount.
 
Joan also receives a supplementary amount from Sports Singapore’s Spex GLOW scheme for her loss of income during this period of training --- this helps her afford her day-to-day living expenses during training.
 
 
How Crowdfunding Can Help Joan
 
Your support will go towards helping Joan afford the following:
 
1.     A boat/shell
-       Joan has been rowing in whichever boats available in every country and team she trains with
-       Being able to own a boat of her own to regularly train and race in will allow her to pick a boat and oar type suited for her build and rowing style, rig/adjust the oars to help her row more efficiently with every stroke
-       This customization will help enhance her performance
-       She will be donating this boat at the end of her rowing career to the next generation of Singaporean rowers

2.     Coaching fees
-       Other than the monthly coaching fees whilst training in Canada (with her Canadian coach), there are plans for Joan and her coach to move part of her training back to Singapore to acclimatize with the heat and humidity which would be more similar to South Korea (where she will be competing for the Olympic qualifiers in April 2020) and Tokyo’s summer climate than Canada would provide – the costs of this move would be borne by Joan

3.     Training related travel expenses
-       Airfares & accommodation

4.     Excess funds raised will be put to developing Rowing in Singapore
-      Updates on payments and purchases will be provided along the way 

On behalf of Joan and her family, thank you for taking the time to read this, for all your support whether in monetary forms or words of encouragement and prayers. Joan always shares how she deeply appreciates every bit of kindness she has received on this journey, and how she sees being able to chase a dream as a privilege --- a responsibility she takes on very seriously.
 
Please keep cheering on this girl with us!
  
Thank you again, from the bottom of our hearts. 

Please feel free to follow her journey or contact Joan at:
Instagram: @rowerpoh
Facebook: @rowerpoh

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Organizer and beneficiary

Joan Poh 
Organizer
Carmen Tolou 
Beneficiary
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