Thursday, 01 September 2011 10:48

Dragonboat racing is an empowering sport

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By Rose Sanchez, Opinion
It’s the most intense two and a half minutes where timing is everything.

That may be the simplest way to sum up dragonboat racing, but spend a day with individuals who are immersed in this sport and you realize it is so much more.

 I had the opportunity to be one of  44 new paddlers last Sunday at a fun day in Elkwater hosted by the two Medicine Hat dragon boat associations — the Medicine Hat Dragonboat Association and Gas City Dragon Boating for Health Association.

Actually getting rigged up and sitting in a dragonboat wasn’t on my most immediate to-do list. I received a phone call from Linda Chapman, one of the organizers and she encouraged me to take part in the day’s activities ... to really take part in them. So I did. I signed the waiver, donned a life jacket, grabbed a paddle and proceeded to learn the basics of this fast-growing sport.

Our team — Dragonfly — had a great time learning to work together to power our boat through the water. We raced the other team of newcomers who earned their name Dragonslayer by beating us in both of the 200 metre heats.

There was plenty of sunshine, a cool breeze and a lot of laughs at each other’s lack of skill on the water.

While the day in Elkwater was fun, it also provided an eye-opener for me.

As I write this only a few short hours after the event has finished, I am still a little overwhelmed at the sense of empowerment I feel. I feel strong, capable and almost like I’ve conquered something.

I think I have a better understanding of why breast cancer survivors take to this sport. Not only is dragonboat racing an excellent form of exercise for these women, but the teamwork and sense of power they gain must be a tremendous lift after the ordeal they’ve been through.

Every dragonboat festival pays tribute to breast cancer survivors.

In 2008, I was fortunate enough to cover the festival in Elkwater where a Festival of Roses was held.

At that time a dragonboat was filled with breast cancer survivors. Sister Power team members used their oars to form an honour guard — a place where those on land who have lost a loved one to cancer or are fighting the disease, could walk under the arch made by the oars to the water’s edge. From there, as members in the boat picked the petals off their roses and placed them on the water, so too did those on shore. At the time, I felt it was a very moving ceremony, but taking part in dragonboat racing has moved me even more.

Racing a dragonboat is about determination and endurance. It’s about not quitting until you’ve reached the finish line. It’s about teamwork, timing and moving your paddles through the water in sync with the beat of a drum.

It sounds the same as what it must be like to be diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s about the determination to endure treatment and the endurance to live with the symptoms which come with the cure. It’s about not quitting and surrounding yourself with a team of doctors, health-care providers, friends and family. It’s about moving forward and living your life to the fullest with every beat of your heart.

Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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