The New Zealand Senior B Small Boat crew at the 14th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Thailand

The dragons return

by Ann van Engelen

Abreast of Life Dragon Boat team member Meri Gibson captained the NZ Black Dragons Senior B Women’s Small Boat squad who competed in the 14th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Thailand.

Team member Janice and Rolleston residents ‘Gilly’ and Ben, were also representing New Zealand competing against 30 other countries.

“Half of our team of 14 are breast cancer survivors, and we placed fifth overall in the competition and fourth in the two-kilometre. This was a highlight for our team, as were our fifth placings in other distances,” said Meri.

“We arrived in Bangkok late on Friday, August 16 and travelled for two hours to Pattaya to participate in the festival. Our first training run out on the water was Sunday, with further training on Monday and Tuesday.

“The first day of competing was Wednesday, which was the two-kilometre race. It was exciting with so many boats out there. In that race, the Singapore A team crashed into the USA boat and tipped them over. We managed to avoid the carnage as it occurred right around us with the tip of the Singapore boat’s tail just nicking the front of our boat. We paddled onto a very reputable fourth-place.“

The team then had two days of rest before racing in the 200m event.

“There were more than 135 races that day, which were back to back, four minutes apart. Sunday was our last day of racing with the 500m event.

“The New Zealand Black Dragons Senior A Women’s Small Boat crew did exceptionally well, they picked up a gold medal in the 2K, a silver medal in the 200m and another silver in the 500m races, which is absolutely fantastic. The Senior B Open Small Boat took out a bronze medal in their last race. Ben was a paddler in the Senior A Open team, and they won a bronze medal in the 500m Senior Open Small Boat final.

“I knew it would be a tough competition as our team trained in two both the North and South Island during winter prior to coming. This meant it was always going to be an uphill battle.

“The exposure is great for the sport in New Zealand and will encourage other paddlers to give it a go.

On our return, we start training for the upcoming season and prepare for our festival for 2022. This has been an incredible adventure for us as we see where we sit on the world stage. I am pleased to say that we have done ourselves, our team, and our country proud.”

The New Zealand team results are Senior A Small Boat Womens — gold and two silver medals, Senior B Small Boat Open 4th, Senior A Standard Boat Mixed 5th, Senior B Small Boat Women 5th, Premier Standard Boat Women 6th, Premier Standard Boat Mixed 13th and Senior B Open Small Boat bronze.

The next world championships will be in Hong Kong in 2021.