Saturday, June 23, 2007

Crouching Cougars, Hidden Dragons

Back row: Steven Wong (coxswain), Deborah Gee, Irene Peng, Linda Chen, Michele Shi, Taylor Yee, Sally Chan, Dipa Barua, Eddie Ha, Cherry Chen, Garry Ly, Wayne Li, and Garvin Pang.

Front row: Mr. Mackinnon (Manager/coach), Chi Hsi, Justin Yee, Christine Chin (den mother), Aleck Pham and Justin Chow.

Missing: Coach Todd Wong, Caitlin Allum, Jenny Tan, Jordan Lee, Jordan Wong, Krystal Han and Stanley Tsia.

Just 12 weeks ago I had the idea of a Dragon Boat Racing team at Killarney. Less than 2 weeks later we had enough interest to put a team together and form the Killarney Dragon Boat Racing Club. With amazingly generous support from KPAC we were able to start practicing in April and eight short weeks later entered Killarney’s first team, the Cougar Dragons, in the Alcan International Dragon Boat Festival—one of the world’s premier Dragon Boat events.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dragon Boat Racing, this is a team sport where 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson, race others over a distance of 500 meters. The boats are long and heavy, but brute strength isn’t what it takes to win. Teamwork is everything in Dragon Boat Racing. Synchronicity is more important than strength. A perfectly synchronized team will almost always beat a stronger, but less coordinated team. 20 paddlers, 10 on each side, paddling in complete synchronicity, paddles going up and down, in and out, in perfect harmony, will always beat a stronger boat that lacks the oneness.

22 Killarney students joined the team, and for eight weeks came out on Tuesday afternoons to the Dragon Zone (False Creek, just behind Science World) to learn about this ancient Chinese sport. We were blessed with the coaching expertise of Todd Wong, coach of two adult teams, and founder of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy multicultural dinner, and with the steering prowess of Steven Wong, a member of the Gung Haggis Dragon Boat team.

Like any new endeavour the learning curve was sharp. None of us had very high expectations, for after all this was our first year. Of the 22 students, none had been in a Dragon Boat before, and very few had been on the water at all. But with hard work and determination, we were going to put Killarney on the map and prove to everyone that we were a team with heart.

Dragon Boat racing is a lot like life. It takes heart, grit and teamwork to succeed. We would need to keep our focus inside the boat, not worry what anyone else is doing, and remember to do what we love, and love what we do. The 22 members certainly had all three of these essential ingredients.

We were seeded towards the bottom as we entered the Alcan. We would compete in four races over two days, and in the final heat would race for honour and medals. As expected on Saturday the more experienced teams pushed ahead, but the Cougar Dragons were not despondent. The team kept their heads and focussed their hearts on the goal. We were finally seeded into the ‘D’ division final on Sunday afternoon. And now the little team that knew they could, put all of their heart, all of their grit and all of their teamwork into one final race. I can’t describe the whole race here, but suffice it to say it was one of the most exciting races I have ever seen. The team sprang out of the start and pushed ahead. The race was tight from beginning to end. With 100 meters left to go, Killarney was in third place but catching up fast. Somehow the paddlers found that reserve from within and gave it their all and passed their nearest rivals just before the finish line to place an amazing 2nd. Many teams come to the Alcan for years without ever earning a medal. Killarney came home with silver at our first!

Congratulations and thank you to Aleck Pham, Caitlin Allum, Cherry Chen, Linda Chen, Chi Hsi, Deborah Gee, Dipa Barua, Eddy Ha, Garry Ly, Garvin Pang, Irene Peng, Jenny Tan, Jordan Lee, Jordan Wong, Justin Chow, Justin Yee, Krystal Han, Michele Shi, Sally Chan, Stanley Tsia, Taylor Yee, and Wayne Li for showing the world what it means to belong to Killarney. Thanks to Coach Todd Wong and Steersman Steven Wong for your help and support. An extra special BIG thank you to the KPAC—without you we couldn’t have done it. We all look forward to a new season and more successes on the water and off as the Cougar Dragons prepare for the future.

For more pictures of the KDBRC go here.

And a final word... I would like to personally thank the KPAC, Coach Todd, Coxswain Steven and especially all the Cougar Dragons for their heart, grit and teamwork. This is why I became a teacher. You are the BEST!

Stuart Mackinnon, Sponsor/Manager
Killarney Dragon Boat Racing Club

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bling! Bling! Cougar Dragons win Silver Medal at Alcan

Killarney's own Cougar Dragons won a Silver medal in the Junior 'D' Final on Sunday. The final was everything a spectator could have asked for, with Killarney coming from behind to finish second. Heart, grit, determination and a team spirit gave Killarney the advantage. Pictures and a full report on the Alcan International Dragon Boat Festival to follow.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Cougar Dragons Race @ Dragon Zone

We hit the Dragon Zone at 8:00 on Sunday morning. Everybody was excited but just a bit apprehensive. What would the first race be like? Could we paddle in time? Would we paddle deep and paddle hard?

With Justin Yee in the drummers seat and Coach Todd Wong steering, the Cougar Dragons hit the water for the first heat.

A good effort, especially as the Cougar Dragons were racing against older and more experienced teams. Re-grouping, captains Chi Hsi and Garvin Pang, encouraged the team, while Coaches Todd Wong and Mr. Mackinnon offered sage advice and refocused everyone.

Refocused and re-energized the Cougar Dragons showed their mettle and improved tremendously in the second heat. Michele Shi had taken the drummers chair and inspired the Cougar Dragons to stay focused and finish fast.
An incredible effort in the second heat gave the team the incentive they needed. After a very brief break it was on to the 'D' division final.

A fabulously exciting race from start to finish, the Cougar Dragons exceeded all of our wildest dreams, gaining 7 seconds on the previous race and placing an unbelievably close second.

Well done Killarney! We have shown what we are made of. We have practiced and been successful. Can we improve? Sure, but we can now proudly bear the honourable title of a Dragon Boat Racing team.

Congratulations Aleck Pham, Caitlin Allum, Cherry Chen, Chi Hsi, Deborah Gee, Dipa Barua, Eddy Ha, Garry Ly, Garvin Pang, Irene Peng, Jenny Tan, Jordan Lee, Jordan Wong, Justin Chow, Justin Yee, Krystal Han, Michele Shi, Sally Chan, Stanley Tsia, Taylor Yee, and Wayne Li. Thanks to Linda Chen, and all the parents who came out to support us. An extra big THANK YOU to coach Todd Wong-- without you, we wouldn't be here!

On to Alcan June 16/17.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Dragon Zone Regatta

Well this is it! Our first big test. Are we a team? YES!
Will we paddle in time? YES!
Will we paddle deep and paddle hard? YES!
Will we keep our heads up and our minds focused? YES! YES YES!

I am very proud of all of you. Your hard work, commitment and dedication makes it all worthwhile. Have a great Saturday. Don't over do it Saturday night. Be sure to have a good dinner, a great sleep and a light but nourishing breakfast Sunday morning. Bring water, bananas, fruit, water, nuts, sunscreen, water, sunglasses, a hat, and...did I say bring water?

I know all of the Killarney community is with us. Know that when you paddle, and you will have that much extra power.

Remember: Sunday 8:15 meet at the Dragon Zone
8:30 registration
8:35 Warm-up
9:00 Marshaling for the race

See you on Sunday