29 February 2024

The Singapore Canoe Federation is backing Canoe Polo for inclusion at the Southeast Asian Games after experiencing a surge in interest in the discipline. 

Singapore was the host of the Asian Canoe Polo Championships in November 2023 which saw matches played at the spectacular Marina Bay. 

It proved to be a big hit with people flocking to the iconic waterfront district to watch thrilling Canoe Polo competition. 

Chinese Taipei were crowned women’s champions with victory over Singapore and shared the men’s title with Iran after the final was cancelled due to a washout. 

Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand also participated in the event which was hailed as a huge success. 

“We hosted the competition at Marina Bay which is one of the most iconic locations in Singapore,” said Singapore Canoe Federation Vice President Evan Kong.  

“It was awesome. 

“I would say it was one of the best Asian Championships. 

“One of the objectives when winning the hosting rights was to bring Canoe Polo into the heart of Singapore and elevate the popularity of the sport. 

“What happened during the COVID-19 pandemic was that there was an expected dip in Canoe Polo so what we wanted was for the local participation to return to the high level we saw before, if not better. 

Singapore Canoe Polo

“Because of where the matches were played we had close to 1,000 people watching each day and for many of them it was the first time they had heard of Canoe Polo.” 

Mr Kong said Singapore was experiencing a “significant” increase in participation which he put down to the “ripple effect” of staging the Asian Championships. 

“We definitely caught the attention of the public and the authorities,” said Mr Kong. 

“Right now, the authorities are asking us ‘How can we support Canoe Polo and grow the sport more in the community?’  

“And 'Where can we support the national team to ensure they do better?’  

“That’s what we wanted to get when we planned the whole competition.  

“About two months ago, we held selection trials for the national team and there were significantly more youth who expressed an interest. 

“We also recently held a community competition where we welcomed first timers to Canoe Polo.  

“We had people from as young as 12 to 15 to as old as 40 to 50.  

“That is the ripple effect from the Asian Championships.” 

The Singapore Canoe Federation has also been boosted after the men’s team and men’s under-21s side both received wildcards from the International Canoe Federation to compete at this year’s Canoe Polo World Championships in Deqing, People’s Republic of China. 

For the first time, Singapore will be represented in all four categories as the women’s team and women’s under-21 side had already qualified based on merit. 

“When I got the news, my first reaction was ‘We did it’,” said Mr Kong. 

Singapore Asian Canoe Polo Championships 2023

“We couldn’t wait to bring the news to the teams. 

“Obviously, the athletes and coaches were over the moon. 

“It has given the athletes a shot in the arm in their preparation journey.” 

China will become the first Asian nation to stage the ICF Canoe Polo World Championships in 20 years when Deqing plays host from October 15 to 20. 

Mr Kong believes the World Championships in Asia will have a big impact on the continent and will enhance the sport’s case for inclusion at the SEA Games. 

While Canoe Polo has been part of the World Games since 2005, it has never appeared at the SEA Games. 

“The athletes are super psyched for the World Championships because for the past 20 years it’s been in Europe, Oceania or North America,” added Mr Kong.  

“For once they will be able to take part in an ICF major event in our home continent. 

“I can see an upward trajectory for Canoe Polo in Singapore as we are getting recognized by the authorities. 

“What I can also see in the future is the potential for Canoe Polo to part of the SEA Games.  

“There have been talks about the inclusion of Canoe Polo in the past. 

“Discussions are ongoing with the organizers to include Canoe Polo at the next SEA Games in Thailand in 2025. 

“In 2027, they will be in Malaysia and then Singapore in 2029.  

"The Canoe Polo events in Singapore over the past 12 months have boosted our negotiating efforts for the coming, as well as future, editions of the SEA Games.”

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