I am still thinking about the accident that happened in the dragon boat race in Cambodia. I cannot imagine the shock and emotional upheaval it has caused to the families, teammates, and friends of the victims.
One of my former teammates told me that it all happened during the first competition day. She told me that the Singapore team was on their way to the docking area already when their boat capsized. She said that even she and the rest of the Philippine team was scared because the boats they were using were very unstable.
This tragedy reminded me of the past. I remember feeling scared days before the competitions. The fear stem mostly from the uncertainties of the racing conditions. I was always particularly concerned everytime I discovered that we would be competing in reservoirs (maybe it all started in Jatiluhur when a teammate told me that the water in the dam where were were competing was 300m deep). Since then, everytime I hear the magic word reservoir, my mind usually went into overdrive thinking how deep the water would be and how safe I would be in the boat. I have often thought that I was probably the only rower who had this huge fear of the water. I mean, not that I do not like being on the water. It was just that, it does get scary out there, which was why I always had to psych up and assure myself that I would be safe.
Retirement quieted those fears. But as the rowing events at the SEA games approaches, the feelings resurfaced. In the past few days, a thousand butterflies seemed to have found their way into my stomach. I realized that even if I am not competing, I still worry about how safe the racing conditions would be.
I am now wearing a different hat. Before, my foremost concern as an athlete was to win. Now, as member of the Jury, I need to make sure that I do my part to ensure that competitions are safe and fair for everyone.
As for my fears, I guess they will always be there. The beauty of struggling with fear is that I always discover the resolve to overcome it. Rowing has taught me a lot in life. It has repeatedly made me confront my fears. I am a rower at heart. I meet my fears head-on...because I can.