Top team survives and thrives
Ngawai Richardson almost fell off her chair when the dragon boat team she belongs to was named the 2015 team of the year.
When she started paddling for the Cansurvive team about 11 years ago, she said winning such an award never crossed her mind.
‘‘The nationals were good and the worlds were amazing, but this is something else,’’ the Whitby resident said.
The Cansurvive team is made up of breast cancer survivors from the Wellington region who thrive on the fitness and fun that comes from being part of the sport.
They were selected as the team of the year at the 2015 Sport Wellington awards recently, beating the Wellington Firebirds and Wellington Saints.
Richardson, a breast cancer survivor, said it was a great honour for the team to have their sports achievements recognised.
‘‘We didn’t expect it,’’ she said, though they were runners-up last year.
The Cansurvive paddlers have collected medals at various international competitions, including a bronze at the world championship in Florida last October.
‘‘ We’ve grown from never having achievements to a barrage of silver and bronze medals, to this.’’
Richardson said that though it was about participation and sportsmanship, the competitiveness of the team had also increased.
She said it was something that kept them fit and active, and that everyone was determined to get somewhere, especially after where they had come from.
‘‘For me, it’s been an interesting journey. I grew up in Lower Hutt and did every sport you can think of. I’ve been over here for about 35 years, and still go to the gym three to four times a week, in between training.’’
Richardson was diagnosed 12 years ago, but has been going strong since, despite the cancer returning a few years ago.
She said she hoped to paddle for many more years.
Coach Jacob de Feijter said Cansurvive was more special than any other team because of what the members had been through.
‘‘They’ve evolved into a great team and that’s what motivates them,’’ he said.
Richardson said Cansurvive was setting up a second team made up of not just breast cancer survivors. That team would be less competitive at the start and would participate only in Wellington regional regattas, but was there to provide an opportunity for beginners. Eighteen paddlers are needed and several ‘‘have a go’’ days have been scheduled: July 5, August 2 and September 13.
Cansurvive is one of seven breast cancer dragon boat teams in New Zealand.
Cansurvive’s dragon boaters Ngawai Richardson, left, coach Jacob de Feijter, and Jo Sutton are pleased with the sports team of the years acknowledgement.