Dragon boaters take Auckland by storm
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | June 1, 2017|
Haliburton’s Carolyn Ellis tapped into something unexpected within herself before one of her team’s dragon boat races at the World Masters Games (WMG) in Auckland, New Zealand in April.
It was a sudden rush of energy and competitiveness that translated to chest banging and yelling.
Her IB Dragonboating Club teammates, six of whom are from Haliburton, were feeling it, too.
“I’ve seen kids do that but I didn’t think I could do that,” she laughed. “It’s quite intimidating when you see the other teams doing it, too.
“Everyone is showing up to win.”
IB Dragonboating was one of more than a dozen dragon boat teams participating in this year’s WMG, the world’s largest multi-sport event that is held every four years for adults 40 and older.
The women’s 50-plus team performed very well in their 500 and 200 m races, placing first in one of their heats and nearly making the podium in the 200 m standard boat final.
They were less than a second behind a third place finish, and also participated in a few mixed crew divisions.
“We thought we were going to get blown out of the water by some of the more experienced teams,” said Chris Whittemore, pointing to New Zealand and Australia who train year-round.
IB Dragonboating, which consists of women and men from Kawartha Lakes, Durham and Haliburton, spent the last several months training at Trent University’s indoor water facility.
To help fund registration and training fees, the team hosted multiple fundraisers throughout 2016.
The team is coached by Carol Gonder, who has participated in previous WMG events.
The team’s hard work paid off, and despite the extreme weather which targeted the team’s race days specifically, race days were everybody’s favourite part of the three-week experience.
“I think we all discovered that this is something we can do, and do well, at a high level. It’s great exercise, a team sport, and very social,” said team member Lois Deacon.
When the team wasn’t racing, they were exploring.
Auckland hosted the athlete’s village and the opportunity to soak in the surrounding culture and beautiful scenery.
In addition to waterfalls, music, bus tours and rolling plains, interacting with the area’s Maori indigenous people was special, says Deacon.
“They had a tent set up and they would give you these [temporary] facial tattoos. It was right in the athlete’s area where they were proudly celebrating Maori culture. It was amazing.”
IB Dragonboating is expecting to participate in the 2021 WMG in Kansai, Japan.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.