A group of dragon boat paddlers has come home to the Comox Valley with medals in hand from the world championships.
Dave Hay, Rupert Wong and Joan Goodwin, with Andrea Keenan serving as one of the coaches, all represented Team Canada at the recent 14th World Championships in Thailand. The competition, which featured teams from 19 countries, was held Aug. 20 to 25.
The event was broken down into categories based on distances for races of 2,000, 1,000, 500, and 200 metres. There were brackets for age groupings. When all was said and done, Team Canada ended up with the second-most medals, trailing only the host country, which won 94 medals overall.
Canada finished with 33 gold, 30 silver and 22 bronze medals, though it came out on top of the medal count for the senior brackets.
The U.S. was in third with 18 gold, 24 silver and 27 bronze medals. Australia was in fourth with 60 total medals.
There were three seniors brackets, based on ages. The three local paddlers were part of the Senior B team, which is for competitors in the 50s, though Goodwin is older. In fact, head coach Tom Arnold says she routinely competes against much younger athletes.
“She’s a special human being,” he said.
Goodwin was a part of last year’s club team from Vancouver Island that attended the world event in Hungary. The Club Crew World Championships are held in alternating years from the world championship event for countries.
For Wong, the event was a new experience. He had taken part in the worlds for outrigger paddling before, but this trip was the first time for him against the best in the world at dragon boating. He found the competition stiff, with races going down to the wire.
“The room for error is very little,” he said.
The national team included paddlers from different parts of the country, including Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
“The tryout is Canada-wide,” Wong said.
However, this year marked a first for the coaching staff, which include coaches from Victoria as well as Cumberland’s Keenan.
“It’s the first time coaches on Vancouver Island have led the national program,” Arnold said.
The team held a three-camp in July in Regina, Sask., following the national championships. Most of the team members were able to attend the camp, but the entire team did not get a chance to paddle together as a unit until three days before the world championships.
“We’ve never actually all paddled together until Thailand,” Wong said, adding, “We’ve got a very good program…. The talent pool is fairly deep.”