All smiles – The dragon boat team from CapitaMalls Asia poses gleefully for the camera!
All smiles – The dragon boat team from CapitaMalls Asia poses gleefully for the camera!

Quick feet swiveled. Watchful eyes darted across the court. The ball danced to the rhythm of the players in gilded jerseys, a mere instrument to the players’ desires. Then, a sudden burst of speed by one of the defenders was followed by a quick incisive pass of the ball, and the defender found himself alone with the opposing goalkeeper. For a second, the crowd stood with bated breath as the defender took aim and kicked. The palpable silence was punctured by the shrill whistle of the referee, only to be overwhelmed by the deafening celebrations of the supporters. 1 – 1. Game on.

Soon enough, the final minute arrived. By now, the tension was almost unbearable as the players dabbled with the prospects of having to endure a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. Understandably, the ball began moving less vigorously around the pitch as the players became more cautious with their movements and passes. But then, a moment of madness! A defender held the ball for an instant too long and found himself dispossessed by the nimble forward from Blizzard. He took one glance at the advancing goalkeeper, sidestepped him with aplomb and promptly slotted the ball into the empty net.

The last seconds of the game passed by uneventfully, and the whistle signaled the end of Golden Boys’ hopes of reaching their first finals of the annual CapitaMalls Asia (CMA) Inter-Mall/Department Futsal Tournament.

I am proud to say that I was one of the members of the Golden Boys squad! Considering that we finished last in 2011’s tournament, we took great pride in our joint second runner-up placing last year. It was also consoling to know that we lost to the eventual champions!

What I appreciated most about the tournament was the courage and determination that my colleagues showed throughout our journey that culminated at East Coast Park in October. The absolute will to succeed became the catalyst to our approach. Many sacrificed their time and money to train after work. Ankles and shins were bruised, and yet no one complained. In fact, our goalkeeper was still recovering from a broken toe when he agreed to don the gloves - what a champ!

Taming the Dragon

Our athleticism wasn’t just confined to the fields. In February last year, CMA made the commitment to send in its first ever team for the annual REDAS Dragon Boat race. The notion of competing in something so foreign and unfamiliar to us was very daunting – as the saying goes, we were venturing into uncharted waters. However, as luck would have it, we had a secret weapon up our sleeve in the form of a very experienced dragon boat racer, Mr. Lawrence Kwok, who bravely took up the mantle to lead the team.

If there is any word that perfectly describes dragon boat training, it would be ‘brutal’. No quarters were given, considering the imminence of the tournament coupled with our utter cluelessness. For four consecutive Saturdays we paddled from one end of Bedok Reservoir to the other under the unforgiving midday heat. Rest stops were given infrequently, and were cherished more for it.

Dragon boat racing is a curious sport indeed. It focuses primarily on teamwork, rather than individual abilities. Every movement has to be well coordinated to create the rhythm necessary for progressing forward with the highest efficiency. A team consists of a drummer, who is perched in front of the boat, and ten paddlers. The front two paddlers are the first among equals, as they set the pace for the rest of the team behind them to follow. Each paddler is to mimic the paddler who is diagonally in front of him, and paddlers on both sides of the boat are supposed to paddle in sync. Pull your paddle out of the water too late and you create drag, put your paddle in too early and you break the rhythm.

On the 7th of April, the ORCAs (CMA’s team’s name) gathered at Lower Seletar Reservoir Park. The tranquil landscape of the reservoir belied the tense atmosphere surrounding the camp. Expectations for the ORCAs weren’t high, but we relished the underdog tag. There were two races we were principally involved in, the first being the Invitational race (consisting of fourteen teams), and the second being the Private Sector race (consisting of eight teams).

We knew that going up against the government bodies in the Invitational race was a tall order, given their immense experience and strength, so our captain Lawrence intelligently structured the team sheet such that the Invitational provided a warm-up of sorts for our more critical Private Sector race.

Although we did not progress to the finals of the Invitational, we were happy and relieved to experience our first proper race! It wasn’t long before the Private Sector race commenced. Another round of warm-up ensured that our hearts and muscles were kept in prime condition. Instructions were barked quickly, followed by a group huddle for solidarity. There was one final shout of “Hurrah!”, and we were off to the docks to fetch our boat. We did a last minute check on our body positions and paddle grips, and then waited for the whistle…


Our paddles instantly dug deep into the water, staying perpendicular to the water surface as we pulled against the resistance of the water. We did ten powerful pulls as fast as our bodies would allow, generating the momentum needed to reach optimal speed. With every lunge the boat propelled forward, and we quickly felt the boat cruising confidently with purpose. By this time some of the boats had already fallen behind as they struggled with the initial push. Then, our captain gave out a loud cry, and we shifted to the slower long pull to maintain our speed for the rest of the race.

However, some of us were at our limit by the final 50 meters, and the boat began to slow slightly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the boat beside ours inching forward ominously. Still, we pushed forward with every ounce of strength we had left. This was our chance to make history, and we weren’t going to let it slip away right at the end!

The blaring horns signaled the end of the race, and we stopped paddling, utterly exhausted. A high-speed camera had to be utilised as the race was too close for the naked eye to discern. It turned out that we managed to get a podium finish, beating the fourth team by only a tenth of a second!

Courage to Lead and Build People

It was a triumphant day for the ragtag team of first-timers, and we savoured every minute of the occasion. Looking back at that fateful day, I could see many factors contributing to our success, but the key takeaway for me was how everyone showed tremendous courage to take up a whole new sport, and to have the belief and desire to be genuine competitors. I would also have to give credit to our captain for his unrelenting optimism, inspiring speeches, and patient tutelage. He truly embodies the CapitaLand credo of building people.

What I find fascinating is how the core value of building people is actively promulgated throughout the organisation and not just followed by a select few. I often see colleagues willingly helping each other in their daily undertakings. We also constantly receive inspiration and motivation from senior management via regular communication sessions. From a philanthropic perspective, I am extremely impressed by CapitaLand’s honest commitment to relieving the plight of underprivileged children around the regions we operate in. For example, in early November I volunteered to guide a gaggle of primary school kids around Tampines Mall to shop for various school paraphernalia and daily essentials as part of CapitaMalls Asia’s signature annual My Schoolbag corporate social responsibility event. It was without a doubt one of the more meaningful activities I have participated in, and I strongly encourage my fellow colleagues to volunteer themselves for the event next year!

At the end of the day, one of the reasons why I enjoy working in CapitaMalls Asia is the constant opportunity to stretch your boundaries and experience something new, be it working on challenging projects or participating in outlandish extra-curricular activities. There was the crazy moment when I conquered my fear of heights to swing down a trapeze in a team-building trip to Bintan last year! There was also the incredibly fun hockey-on-chairs tournament I participated in with some colleagues across the CapitaLand family.

Looking into the horizon, I cannot foresee what the future will bring, but needless to say, I’m eagerly awaiting my next great adventure with CapitaMalls Asia!

This new column entitled CapitaDNA is a platform for everyone at CapitaLand to share their experiences and thoughts on the company’s core values and corporate principles by contributing articles to CapitaLand INSIDE Different Geographies.

CapitaDNA entails our 6 Core Values. These values and guiding principles represent how CapitaLand does business, how it treats its stakeholders and how the staff interacts in the workplace. As the Group continues to grow, this DNA is crucial in differentiating itself from the rest.

Click here to submit a CapitaDNA article