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.