From Injuries to Dragon Boat Captain

Kenneth Lee is an Assistant Vice President in the DBS Corporate Development and Ecosystems team, where he looks after the bank’s Mergers & Acquisitions as well as Ecosystems partnerships. He joined DBS 7 years ago as a Graduate Associate and it was through a friend’s recommendation that he joined the bank’s corporate dragon boat team, DBS Asia Dragons. It was the first time he tried a water sport as he claimed to be “more of a ball-sports person” but his love for the sport just kept growing over the years since and in early 2015, with the support and trust of his teammates, he was given the opportunity to step up – first as vice-captain and now, as team Captain.

Kenneth suffered several injuries which he overcame before entering the sport of dragon boating. We find out more about Kenneth, his love of the sport as well as the softer side of him through his involvement in the non-profit organisation, DB Hearts.

Q: Could you share how you suffered from multiple injuries?

I first tore my left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is one of the major ligaments in the knee, when I was training in Officer Cadet School (OCS) during my National Service, which I had reconstruction surgery. I remembered straining my left knee in the weeks prior to a Standard Obstacle Course test, where I fell awkwardly for one of the stations and that caused the complete rupture. During rehab, I tore it again (and reconstructed again), probably due to my eagerness to recover to do sports.

During university, I pulled my right shoulder badly and had to be out of action for a few months and a few years ago, I tore my right ACL. I spoke with a few doctors and physiotherapists back then and decided not to reconstruct the torn ACL as some of them believed that these injuries could be managed through proper strengthening and conditioning. Rehab was then all about making a conscious effort to strengthen the muscles around the injured joints.

Q: How did your injuries affect your life?

The first few weeks post-operation of the ACL reconstruction were the most difficult to adjust to both physically and emotionally. I went from playing basketball every weekend after I booked out from OCS to lying in bed and having to walk around in crutches; even taking a shower was a chore as I had to wrap my bandaged knee tightly with a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet.

After the first ACL reconstruction surgery, I was quite lost and had doubts about whether I could continue my weekly recreational basketball sessions. I remember being so eager to recover quickly so I was pushing myself to attend physiotherapy 3 to 4 times a week and that probably led to a tear of the reconstructed ACL. Surprisingly, I dealt with the second operation way better than the first and learnt that it takes patience when it comes to recovery and training.

Generally, I am quite resilient and would challenges head-on. Even when I tore my right ACL years later, and decided not to reconstruct it, I did my own rehab and not let the injury affect my life. That’s how I have been with my dragon boat training and CrossFit.

Q: How did you overcome your injuries? Could you share some rehabilitative workouts, tips and tricks to overcome injuries?

During the post-operation rehabilitation and physiotherapy, apart from strengthening the muscles, I had to relearn basic movements such as walking, going up and down the stairs. It is quite scary how much muscle one can lose after an operation. The goal was to recover back to be able to take part in sports and the first few months were spent simply correcting the muscle imbalance between the two legs. For the recent ACL tear, which I chose not to operate to reconstruct, I had to do my own rehab.

If you’re overcoming injuries, I suggest incorporating core workouts such as plank holds, glute bridges, etc. as part of your cool-down. A strong core is key for any sports. In fact, it is essential for daily activities too. No one likes to be injured and most people wouldn’t like to do rehab work as it is usually boring an repetitive. It boils down to discipline and determination to prevent a reoccurrence, which pushed me through all the rehab work. Even till today, I would include a day or two of rehab as part of my training. Rehab and recovery may be a long-drawn process before one can see results, so it is important to stay positive and be patient.

Q: What do you like most about dragon boating?

I am passionate about outdoor sports as I get to enjoy working out under the sun. I still remember after my first water training, my whole body was aching for several days but it also sparked my interest in dragon boating. Having participated in many dragon boat races over the years, both locally and overseas, my biggest takeaways are the life lessons that I wouldn’t be able to learn through work alone, and the friends that I got to know. There are so many inspiring people in the team that I get to interact with and learn from. For example, Jeffrey, a father of 5, trains twice as hard as anyone else in the team.

Being able to continue learning from my seniors and impart my knowledge, especially to the newcomers, and watch them grow, are my biggest motivators to stay on year after year. Such friendships are hard to come by and it is only through adversity that these become solidified.

Q: Now that you’re Captain, what sort of leader do you aspire to be and what goals do you have for your team?

I aspire to be a leader by example, someone who “walks the talk”. I always believe that actions speak louder than words and through my actions of going through the grind with my team – leading and doing the hard training together, I hope to motivate and inspire my teammates. Also, I want to be a captain with a heart by making myself available to my team as much as possible and putting myself in the shoes of my teammates in order to understand their needs.

No doubt that we are a competitive corporate dragon boat team and that’s why we train hard, but more importantly, I hope that my teammates enjoy the sport, treasure the friendships and lead healthier lifestyles. We set aside our differences, be it rank or age, and come together as one team to train for a common goal. Success, to me, is not the number of medals we win but the strength of the team’s unity, the readiness or willingness to help one another.

Q: Could you tell us more about your involvement with DB Hearts?

DB Hearts is a ground-up initiative that was conceived in 2016 by a group of dragon boat veterans who desired a more inclusive and diverse community. DB Hearst now includes a mix of veteran sportspeople, young innovative athletes and seasoned professionals, ensuring fresh approaches and meaningful community bonds. Our mission is to catalyse true diversity and boundlessness for typical and atypical profiled persons.

I was brought up in a close-knitted family and I believe that this can be replicated in my community at large, where people will look out and take care of each other, and there will be a place for everyone. My first interaction with DB Hearts came when my coach, Eng Hee, who is one of the founders, shared his vision with me in 2018 and I immediately knew that this was something that could potentially create that “kampung spirit” where people can do their part to create a more inclusive community. That’s when I started to rope in the DBS Foundation team and linked them with DB Hearts to co-organise last year’s DBS Marina Regatta Community Race.

With the hope that I can potentially do so much more for society, I took up the offer to join DB Hearts committee this year and be part of the driving force to push for a truly boundless community and having hearts in the right places. Once again, I am coordinating the efforts for this year’s DBS Marina Regatta Community Race to ensure that we have a smooth event where all participants can truly enjoy themselves.

Q: Any last advice on how to keep active, especially with our busy modern lifestyles?

Every second counts. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day, it is about maximising the time to do what we love and want. If you can only afford 15 minutes a day to exercise, that’s good enough. Being active doesn’t mean it has to be playing sports or hitting the gym. It can be simple things such as climbing the stairs or alighting two stops earlier and walking home. Sometimes, this allows you to clear the mind and enjoy the moment while rediscovering oneself.

 

We thank Kenneth and wish him and his teammates all the best for the upcoming DBS Marina Regatta, happening on 31 May to 2 June at The Promontory @ Marina Bay where dragon boat teams from eight countries across Asia Pacific and North America will be competing for a combined prize of S$115,000. This is the largest prize for a dragon boating competition in Asia and this is also the first time that teams from Canada will be participating, alongside teams from Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Brunei and Singapore. Please refer to the Singapore Dragon Boat Association for race details.

The DBS Marina Regatta 2019 is back for its eighth edition and will feature a 23,000 sq gt maze constructed out of 95% recycled material, mainly compressed straw of leftover stems of agricultural crops. Adrenaline junkies and weekend warriors will have 12 minutes to climb, crawl, jump and swing their way through physical obstacles around the maze to test their speed and knowledge of critical issues facing the environment.

Besides the Dragon Boat race and the maze, members of the public can also enjoy a gastronomical treat as dished out by second-generation hawkers while listening to 20 young buskers sing their heart out around the bay. Entry to the event is free. For the full line up, do visit http://www.dbsmarinaregatta.com/.


Photos: DBS Marina Regatta and Kenneth Lee. 

 

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