Muslim athlete Saiyidah Aisyah’s road to the Rio 2016 Olympics was far from easy. You see, the rowing community is tiny in Singapore and people did not believe that she could go far. Also, rowing had been excluded from the 2015 SEA Games. Nonetheless, Aisyah is someone who believes that nothing is impossible.
In 2013, she courageously took a break from work and made the decision to train full-time. Aisyah flew to Sydney, where she had to use her life savings to train and support herself. Her efforts paid off and she became Singapore’s first individual gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games. Aisyah was the sole competitive female rower at the Games and had won Singapore’s first rowing gold since 1997.
Because of her win, she successfully convinced the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to include rowing when Singapore hosted the games in 2015. Aisyah won the “Berita Harian Inspiring Young Achiever Award 2014”, an award that aims to motivate young Malay Muslims in Singapore who have shown the potential to achieve greater heights and inspire other young Malay Muslims to achieve their goals. She was also recognized by The Singapore Women’s Weekly and given one of the Great Women of Our Time Awards, an annual award that honors the achievements of the nation’s most inspiring women.
Nine months later, Aisyah finished last in the lightweight single sculls finals in Incheon, South Korea. The loss was excruciating. In tears, she told reporters that she was going to ask for forgiveness from her parents, for not bringing home a medal to them. On top of that, she faced painful difficulties such as multiple injuries, the lack of funding and self-doubt.
However, Aisyah remained steadfast. She was determined not to allow anything get in the way of her dreams. On April 25th, 2016, Saiyidah Aisyah made history when she became the first Singaporean rower to qualify for the Olympic Games. After her impressive victory, she wrote on her blog: “Maybe the most important celebration is the one I share with God, where I thank Him again and again for bringing me where I am today, for everything that He has given me, even the crazy challenges He has put me through. I guess what they said was right, ‘If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”