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Dragon boats to churn water at Olympic site
Teams to compete for top title
Breast Cancer survivors take a lap on Lake Lanier in a dragon boat during last year’s Dragon Boat festival at the Lake Lanier Olympic Center. This year marks the 18th anniversary of the festival.

18th annual Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival

When: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Center, 3105 Clark’s Bridge Road, Gainesville

Cost: Free

More than 70 teams rowing 40-foot-long boats resembling Chinese folklore monsters will compete in the Hong Kong Association of Atlanta’s 18th annual Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival this weekend.

The Saturday event will feature various Chinese cultural ceremonies and 72 teams competing for top honors at the Lake Lanier Olympic Center. The festival runs from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14 at the venue, 3105 Clark’s Bridge Road, Gainesville.

Dragon Boating is one of the fastest growing team watersports in the world and is closely connected with breast cancer awareness groups, according to the nonprofit Dragon Boat Atlanta’s website

"It’s been beneficial to me because of the exercise, but it has also given me the chance to get the support of other people," said two-time breast cancer survivor and dragon boat participant Linda Evans. "It’s different from walking or biking because it is a team sport, but it is also very personal."

Dragon Boat Atlanta competes in various dragon boat competitions across North America. The team has competed in events in the southeast as well as in Windsor, Vancouver and Peterborough, Canada. They won first place at the Peachtree City Rotary Club Dragon Boat Races in 2007.

The group also promotes breast cancer awareness through other activities such as participating in The Longstreet Clinic’s Harvest of Hope, making pillows for cancer survivors and talking about their personal journeys through cancer to various groups and organizations.

The close connection with breast cancer awareness and dragon boating began in 1995 when Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist in British Columbia, began studying breast cancer survivors who paddled in dragon boats to determine if they suffered an increased rate of lymphedema, a swelling of limbs often caused by common treatments of breast cancer.

After 10 years, there were no new cases of lymphedema among the study participants. Many paddlers reported an improvement in physical and mental health.

Today, hundreds of breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams are formed worldwide.

"This year, we will compete as a cancer team, not just a breast cancer team," Evans said. "We will have survivors of different kinds of cancer as well as supporters of people who have or had cancer."

Aside from the dragon boat races, the festival will also feature a "dotting of the eye of the dragon" ceremony, Asian talent performances and a variety of Chinese artisans.

Dragon Boat Atlanta practices at the rowing club’s venue on Lake Lanier once a week and encourages anyone who is interested to come to a practice and try it out.

For more information, visit their website or call 678-956-0062.

For more information on the festival, call 678-971-9858.

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