Merdeka Paddlers hope to stamp their mark on dragon boat race

Teamwork makes the dream work: The Merdeka Paddlers posing during one of their training sessions ahead of the dragon boat championship.

GEORGE TOWN: From students and working professionals to retirees, the Malaysian community in Hong Kong are eager to stamp their mark on the Stanley International Dragon Boat Championship 2021.

Being true Malaysians with the Malaysia Boleh! spirit, the rowers will form two teams for the tournament touted as one of the biggest dragon boat racing events in Hong Kong.

Known as the “Merdeka Paddlers”, each team has 20 rowers aged between 20 and 70.

Kenneth Foo, one of the team captains, said they would make their debut against the seasoned campaigners in the competition on June 14.

“We will put up a good fight against the best in this tournament.

“I am sure our consistency and persistence will bear fruit.

“Most importantly, we want to share and spread the ‘Malaysia Boleh’ spirit and foster the Muhibbah relations among Malaysians and non-Malaysians alike, ” he said.

According to Foo, the Malaysian rowers comprising both genders of diverse backgrounds were brought together by the Consulate General of Malaysia in Hong Kong, Malaysian Association of Hong Kong (MAHK) and Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Maycham) Hong Kong and Macau.

“We started off by inviting fellow Malaysians in Hong Kong to go dragon boating together.

“It turned out to be a fun activity and everyone enjoyed themselves.

“Today, our team is made up of students, working professionals, homemakers and even senior citizens who have retired here.

“Since we are nearing the competition, we train twice a week for two hours each time.

“We are happy to see these people who are always so enthusiastic and motivated when they come for training, ” he said in an online interview on Thursday.

Foo said they had wanted to take part in the competition last year but could not due to the severe Covid-19 situation.

“When the tournament opened for registration this year, we published it on our social media, and the response from fellow Malaysians here was overwhelming, ” he said.

Foo said the training sessions were a good way for Malaysians to get together as most of them have not been home since Chinese New Year last year.

“We miss home very much and meeting fellow Malaysians here is the next best thing we can do.

“It is also a good opportunity for the adults and retirees to share their experiences and give insightful advice to the students here, ” he said.

MAHK chairperson Gina Wong said they brainstormed before naming the team “Merdeka Paddlers”.

“The competition is a great platform for Malaysians to get together as well as promoting their sportsmanship.

“There are about 300 active members in MAHK and we are a close-knit community here.

“We are grateful for the support and sponsorship given by the Malaysian corporate companies here, ” she said.

Consul-General of Malaysia in Hong Kong Yap Wei Sin said the consulate would like to express its appreciation to MAHK and Maycham for their patriotism and dedication in helping to fly the Jalur Gemilang high in Hong Kong.

“I am confident that the Merdeka Paddlers, led by their capable team captains, will make us proud on race day, ” he said.

Maycham Hong Kong and Macau chairman Datuk KC Gan said the chamber has more than 500 corporate and individual members.

“We are here to promote Malaysia and support the Malaysian community in Hong Kong and Macau.

“Our mission includes promoting trade between Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau, ” he said.

Also present during the online interview were team captains Low Eng Hooi and Chaang Tuck Loong.

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