Anyone with a brother or sister will attest to a childhood filled with not just bedside stories but also plenty of sarcasm-ridden competition. Siblings share the same parents, and by extension 99.9% of the genes. Which means what one is capable the other should technically be as well. But of course in reality that never happens and growing up becomes a endless series of action and reaction, provocation and retaliation. Newton’s wisdom in its full glory.
For the uninitiated, like myself, learning to tell the difference between canoeing and kayaking is like telling Stephenie apart from Sarah. During our first interview the two sisters wore the same white tee, both beaming megawatt pearly whites and well-defined torsos that made me seriously regret skipping gym days.
Their fierce style of racing and success at the 2015 SEA Games have made Stephanie and Sarah one of the top home favourites at the coming Asian Canoe Sprint Championships in Shanghai, not to mention their fun-loving, larger-than-life personalities which never fails to bring a party of its own at any gathering.
“I did not hit you. I merely high-fived your face!”
Sarah and Stephenie are incredibly close even if, being the competitive national canoeists they are, it’s not something they are too vocal about. They are by no means inseparable, a point both were eager to make. However, what they thrive on is this constant encouragement to each other to seek out the best in themselves, both on and off the water. The uncanny resemblance between them drives them even harder to outdo the ‘shadow’ of each other’s (lesser) existence.
Family and friends speak to the heart of the tightly bonded sisters. The only time when I had a whiff of of one-upmanship was when Sarah grudgingly bemoans that “girls have muscles too” and backs up her statement visibly agitated. No disagreement was to be had and the interview quickly moved on. On a serious note, the sisters sincerely hope to empower and encourage women in society and sports through the platform that canoeing has given them.
“We hope to show by example of our effort, that as long as you set your heart and mind to something, put in the hard work, then there is nothing to lose because you have already given it all you’ve got” For them, sports is one of the best metaphor for life, going through the trials of miles and miles of trials teaches so much about determination, discipline and perseverance. That the power to achieve dreams comes from your heart (and not just your biceps).
“The best race will always be the next” quips Sarah when asked about the drive behind her pursuit of the perfect one. “Definitely without the tsunami waves and gale winds we once raced in” Stephenie chimed in.
In this final countdown to the 2017 Asian Canoe Sprint Championships in October (canoeing is not part of the 29th SEA Games), the Chen sisters will be looking to the Olympic motto of ‘faster, higher, stronger’ as inspiration for an all-rounded performance to better their previous SEA Games performance of 2 Gold, 1 Silver in 2015. Even then, they know this long and tough journey will not end anytime soon, but I’m not sure if they’d rather have anyone else by their side. Well, they are literally (racing) in the same boat for K4!
Meanwhile, catch Stephenie donning the Team Singapore tee! Get yours now!