Christchurch dragons head­ing to China


It’s been months of gru­elling, early morn­ing train­ings in the Avon River for the Can­ter­bury­based New Zealand dragon boat team amp­ing for the world cham­pi­onships this month.

Af­ter claim­ing vic­tory in the New Zealand Na­tion­als in April, pad­dlers from the Ao­raki Dragon Boat As­so­ci­a­tion are head­ing to China, the home of the wa­ter sport, for the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

The 13th Dragon Boat World Na­tions Cham­pi­onships will be held at Dianchi Lake in Kun­ming, China, from Oc­to­ber 18. The New Zealand team will com­pete in the 2km, 500m and 200m races spread over the five days of rac­ing.

The New Zealand 10-Man Open crew, an amal­ga­ma­tion of dif­fer­ent clubs from around Christchurch, had vary­ing lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence and be­fore their se­lec­tion only knew each other as com­pe­ti­tion.

Sim­i­lar to team wa­ter sports such as waka ama or row­ing, team coach Rus­sell Stocks has been dragon boat­ing for the past 20 years and said the ‘‘emerg­ing sport’’ was a thrill.

‘‘There’s a real, real buzz get­ting 20 peo­ple all to­tally in-sync at max­i­mum ef­fort and every­one’s per­fectly in-sync. The feel of the boat is just amaz­ing,’’ he said.

Team cap­tain Izac Frunt said it was com­mon to be asked what dragon boat­ing was.

‘‘Peo­ple wouldn’t have heard of it and put it with old peo­ple and pad­dling, that’s what they did in the 80s and 90s. It was an old boys club for drink­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘Peo­ple are tak­ing it more se­ri­ously now.’’

Meri Gib­son, East Lake Trust trustee and New Zealand Dragon Boat As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent, high­lighted the dragon boat­ing com­mu­nity’s sup­port of the $160 mil­lion Christchurch red-zone row­ing lake last month.

‘‘At times our whole boat’s at the bot­tom, some times the pad­dle hits the bot­tom. We re­ally don’t want to be dam­ag­ing a $350 pad­dle,’’ Stocks said.

‘‘It’s an ex­am­ple of how we’re des­per­ate here in Can­ter­bury for a deep wa­ter fa­cil­ity for lots and lots of sports, sim­i­lar to what East Lake is plan­ning.’’

He said while in­ter­na­tion­ally China, Ger­many and the United States dom­i­nated the sport, his newly-formed Kiwi crew will put their best pad­dle for­ward.

‘‘We’ve come to­gether for the first time as a crew. Some other coun­tries will have in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore. None of our guys have that.

‘‘They’re all com­ing into the boat ready to learn and we’re all mov­ing to­gether,’’ he said.

‘‘If these guys could fin­ish mid­field, I’d be stoked. If we beat that, I’d be over the moon.’’

Stocks, a Shirley Boys’ High School teacher, had pre­vi­ously taken a stu­dent crew to the world cham­pi­onships in 2009 in Czech Re­pub­lic.

Dragon boat­ing be­gan 2000 years ago in com­mem­o­ra­tion of Chi­nese war­rior-poet Qu Yuan’s sac­ri­fice in de­fi­ance of cor­rup­tion.

Today, coun­tries around the world com­pete in friendly com­pe­ti­tion in races rang­ing from 200m all the way to long dis­tance slogs.


01102017 Photo: John Kirk-An­der­son/Stuff Na­tional drag­onboat­ing team train­ing at Lyt­tel­ton. The squad head to China for the world drag­onboat champs next month.

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