The ICF Dragon Boat World Championship event was another opportunity for Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club paddlers to put their best foot forward, said its coach Jim O’Dell.
And the local athletes, 11 total including O’Dell who also took part in the festival in Poznan, Poland, helped the U.S. squad of more than 100 strong bring home the title Sunday in Poland.
The dragon boat, a celebration of ancient Chinese tradition, is unique to other paddling with 10 and 20-person steered boats, equipped with a person to sound the drum and another to steer in the rear of the boat.
“I’m very proud of how our athletes performed,” said O’Dell. “It showed that our athletes at the LCKC really work their tails off.”
The defining race for the Americans was also heavy in influence with LCKC members. Racing in the junior-mixed 10-seat, 2,000 meter race, it took fourth ahead of Poland — after it was disqualified — and turned out to be the difference in points for the U.S. (89.2) over second-place Poland (82.9).
Both racing neck and neck the entire race going counter clockwise, on the oval course, the U.S. squad fended off the physical style and contact from rival paddles of the Polish squad, to finish the race.
“It was a really impressive job by our juniors to keep their heads and stay composed,” said O’Dell.
Taking part in the key junior mixed win from the LCKC were Anastasia Haack, Dustin Grattan, Michael Olson and Tyler Martin, along with Macy Dwyer on the drum and steered by O’Dell.
The championship took place on Lake Malta, an Olympic-rate facility, with well-defined lanes, grandstand seating and even restaurant accommodations for the athletes from all across the globe who took part in the event. Winning at the dragon boat is more challenging for the U.S. athletes, but were able to come away with many silver and bronze finishes.
The US squad combined for just one practice in Philadelphia during July, in comparison to nations such as the Philippines where squad members are known to practice three times a day, according to O’Dell.
However, the cross-section of athletes drawn to the dragon boat also makes it appealing for athletes who are new to this discipline.
“My favorite thing about the dragon boat is A: anyone can take part in it,” said O’Dell. “You can take anyone willing to put in the work and compete at a world-championship level.”
The most successful member of the LCKC was master’s women’s participant Laurie Moore, of Cumming, with four medals total, including three silver and a bronze.
The Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club’s women’s squad also earned the women’s points title in the Nation’s Cup. Included in that group were Moore, Anna Crawford and Cannie Ash.
“Throughout the event, our LCKC athletes performed above and beyond the call of duty,” said O’Dell.
On Sept. 13, fans can soak in the dragon boat action locally. The Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club is holding the Hong Kong Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival in Gainesville.