Hong Kong rower Anna Fisher has won five gold medals at a world masters regatta in South Africa after beating injury and funding challenges.
Fisher, 32, the only Hong Kong contestant in the World Rowing Masters Regatta this year, told the Post: “I feel happy that my training paid off and that I had something to show for it. I had been training for a year prior to this regatta.”
More than 800 rowers from around the world including former Olympians competed in 308 races at the Roodeplaat Dam, about 20km northeast of the capital Pretoria, in the four-day event from September 21 to 24.
Fisher took gold in the races of the women’s single sculls and quadruple sculls, as well as mixed double sculls, defeating rowers from Germany, the United States and Australia, among others.
Fisher – who represented Hong Kong in sailing at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta – said she was glad she could overcome pain from an injury in her right knee that forced her to stop for a while last year.
“I had a suspected tear in my meniscus. At it’s worst I couldn’t sit down properly,” Fisher said, adding that she managed to return after months of rest and rehab for mobility.
Fisher said funding was once a huge obstacle, owing to the expenses for travelling, accommodation and entries to competitions, which cost her around HK$ 30,000 (US$3,800) in total.
The rower said she received cash donations from her family and friends, whom she described as “incredibly supportive”, as her birthday present this year.
Fisher said she had been rowing for 13 years after taking up the sport during her first year at university and had gradually grown committed to it.
“There’s only one move in rowing, but there’s a lot to work out. And you must row facing backwards, so you need to motivate yourself … as you can’t see the finishing line,” she said.
The athlete said age was not a challenge as the annual regatta, held in South Africa for the first time this year, was for rowers aged 27 and above, with its oldest group covering those 89 years and over.
The oldest rower this year was 94, Fisher said, describing it as “incredibly inspirational”.
“One of the rowers made a short speech which I memorised – rowing keeps the muscles moving and the mind clear, and that he hopes to see us still rowing in our 90s too – just wow!” she said.
Fisher, who became the first woman to row solo around Hong Kong Island in 2020, said she also felt humbled by other master rowers with more racing experience and higher achievements.
“It has been amazing to watch Hong Kong rowers achieve new heights at the Asian Games,” Fisher said.
“I hope it keeps growing and growing. I think it’s been getting more recognition already due to their achievements.”