Victoria’s Gorging Dragons had some gold to declare at the border.
Three dragon boating teams based in Victoria are celebrating an impressive medal haul, bringing in three golds, four silvers, and a bronze medal from the International Dragon Boat Federation’s (IDBF) Club Crew World Championships (CCWC) in Adelaide, South Australia, April 1 to 3.
“Its pretty amazing the success we’ve had this past week, it’s been exciting that’s for sure” said head coach Tom Arnold.
Every two years, the best dragon boat clubs in the world get together to compete. To qualify, clubs must first finish on top of their respective countries. For Canada, that means a top-five finish.
The Gorging Dragons sent four teams in all, a senior 60-plus men’s team, a senior 60-plus mixed team, a senior 60-plus women’s team, and a 50-plus women’s team. They all competed in 200, 500 and 2,000-metre races.
The 50 plus women’s finished fourth in every race, but it wasn’t necessarily heartbreak.
“It was okay. We were 1.6 seconds away from bronze in a 10 minute race.” said 50-plus women’s 50-plus racer Patti Linden, adding it’s about more than medals and the competition was stiff. “Even though it’s fourth, it’s fourth in the world.”
Many Victorians may be familiar with traditional rowing, something Canada has done quite well in internationally. Dragon boating is similar in that it’s a water sport involving boats, but there are key differences. Namely, dragon boaters use paddles, face forwards, and have 24 teammates on a boat at any given time.
The sport is open to paddlers at all levels, though most of the competitive Gorging Dragons are in their 50s and 60s.
“Many of the members thought that they were too old to be athletes,” said Arnold. “So to watch them do the same training as athletes who are in their 20’s or 30’s has been really gratifying.”
“It’s so rare to call yourself best in the world in anything being from a small centre.”
The Linden’s agree. In addition to full time careers, they have around six days of training each week leading up to big competitions.
According to Linden, there’s some talk of a competitive 70-plus age bracket coming into force, though there are younger paddlers. The CCWC has a premier division which is open to all age groups as well.
It was watching her kids compete in Italy two years ago that motivated the Lindens to get into competitive paddling.
“It’s a real family sport, that’s one of the good things about it,” said Linden.
Linden was joined in Adelaide by her husband, Rick. He took home two gold and three silver medals.
Potential paddlers looking to try dragon boat racing are welcome during the spring and early summer. Check out vipaddling.com/dragon-boat-programs for details.