Island dragon boat paddlers join Team Canada, take home gold at World Championships

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Canada's Senior B team is seen photographed. Thirty paddlers from VI Paddling joined more than 300 other Canadians to compete at the IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, which happened Aug. 7-13 in Royong-Pattaya, Thailand.

A group of Islanders paddled to gold at the 16th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, where they joined Team Canada to catch the top awards.

Thirty paddlers from VI Paddling and more than 300 other Canadians took to the world stage to compete in Royong-Pattaya, Thailand, from Aug. 7-13, according to the Vancouver Island-based, non-profit paddling club.

Team Canada brought home 101 medals, including 52 gold, 36 silver and 13 bronze, says VI Paddling. They also earned the World Nations Cup, Seniors Cup, Juniors Cup and Women’s Cup during the event that featured 351 races ranging from 200-metre sprints to two-kilometre distance races.

Canada bested teams from Thailand, China, USA and more, cementing its status “as a global dragon boat powerhouse at this year’s World Championships,” says Tom Arnold, head coach of Team Canada’s Senior B team and president of VI Paddling.

“A result like this requires years of dedication and training by the athletes, but I know none of them will ever forget those few moments standing at the top of the podium singing along to ‘O Canada’ with a gold medal around their necks,” said Arnold in a release.

READ ALSO: 1,000 paddlers to descend on Victoria for dragon boat festival

Canada also competed in the ParaDragon division for the first team, battling it out in both the PD-1 (100 per cent para) and PD-2 (50 per cent para, 50 per cent supporter) categories, earning three gold, four silver and two bronze medals.

The para team included athletes with physical, psychological, neurological, sensory, developmental or intellectual impairments — a crew paddler Jaime Wegner-Lohin was proud to be a part of.

“When I first found out about the opportunity to represent Canada on the first-ever national ParaDragon team, I knew it was something that I needed to be part of,” said Wegner-Lohin.

“It was such a proud moment to race in the first-ever para-only boat at the World Dragon Boat Championships and come out of the first 2000m race with a gold medal.”

Coaches, steers, drummers and paddlers form VI Paddling, and they’re now gearing up to host their first-ever dragon boat festival — the 2023 Comox Dragon Boat Festival, scheduled for Sept. 16 at Comox Marina.

“It’s not easy to make it to the top of any sport when you come from a smaller community,” added Arnold.

“But thanks to talented coaches at local clubs like VI Paddling, a steadily growing number of local paddlers are finding success on the world stage.”

Ethan Morneau

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