Dragon Boat World Athlete: Road to World Championships. What are the sacrifices?

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Canada.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Kiyoshi Morishita
BIRTHPLACE: Guelph, Canada
AGE: 22yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler, Captain of the Waterloo Vikings
PADDLING SIDE: Right or Left
HEIGHT: 183cm
WEIGHT: 95kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldU24 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m, 2015
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldU24 Open, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m, 2015
Pan Am Club Crew Championships, GoldPremier Open, 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, BronzeUniversity Mixed, 2015
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, GoldU24 Open, 2013
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, SilverU24 Mixed, 2013
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, SilverUniversity Mixed, 2013


Our first featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, Kiyoshi Morishita, was in his freshman year in the university when he was first introduced to dragon boat by a friend of his. He has been paddling for four years now and was part of the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Team and then later on with the Waterloo Vikings, where he eventually became the club’s Captain.

“Over that time, we have transitioned from an Under 24 team to a Premier level team, making it to the “A Final” at the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival in 2015. A triumph that is first ever in club history.”, Kiyoshi shared.

Before Kiyoshi became a full-time dragon boat paddler, he played a lot of ice hockey. Aside from his athletic skills, on ice and in water, he’s also fascinated with the sciences. This coming September, he will soon start with his Graduate Studies in Functional Polymer Chemistry at the University of Tokyo.

Let us get to know more about Kiyoshi.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita


Q: Tell us a briefly about the selection process in the National Team? How long did it take you to qualify in the Canadian National Team?

A: The selection process began in the summer before Worlds. There were regional camps in September and February with fitness testing, erg testing, and paddling evaluation. There was a central final selection camp in May with fitness testing, erg testing, OC1 time trials and a lot of dragon boat paddling.

Q:Was there a time when you did not make it to the cut?

A: After the February camp, I was the 31st ranked male paddler. I worked hard to improve my fitness and trained a lot on the paddle ergs and in the paddle pool at Afterburn Fitness.

Q: What made you decide to be in the forefront and join the National Team?

A: I wanted to prove to myself that I had the determination and drive to make the team. Having supportive teammates going through the same tryout process helped a lot. I’m very glad I decided to try out, as representing my country on the world stage, with the best dragon boaters from across Canada is an experience I’ll forever cherish.

Q: As a seasoned paddler, you are aware that there is a profound motivational climate in this sport, how do you benefit from this as an athlete and as a person?

A: One thing that keeps me going when I’m tired during a race or in training is the knowledge that my teammates around me are hurting just as much and that my opponents are pushing themselves even harder. Through this sport I’ve grown much stronger as an athlete and developed leadership skills as an experienced paddler and captain of the Waterloo team.

Q: How long do you prepare in competing for the World Championships? Which major race are you preparing for next?

A: My preparation for trying out for the National team began a year before the competition. At the height of this preparation, I was training 10 times per week and following a strict diet. Immediately prior to the World Championships, the national team came together for 6 days of training and team bonding. I’m preparing most for the University Cup at the 2016 Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival. The New College New Dragons have won the cup in 9 of the past 10 years and winning it in 2013 was one of my greatest dragon boat accomplishments.

Q: In three words, what does Dragon Boat mean to you?

A: Honour, focus, fun.

Q: Any personal ritual before you get in the boat? Do you pray before the games?

A: I always take a few minutes to myself to go over the race plan. I visualize the race and how I’ll feel at each stage. I try to foresee the pain I’ll be enduring and tell myself that I can push through it. I never pray before races, but we always have a pre-race talk led by the coaches or captains.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita

Q: Serious question: What do you find so satisfying about paddling water? (HAHA)

A: That sound of paddles punching through the spray in the recovery phase.

Q: On Diet: How do you manage your pre and post training nutrition? Is it your own research or is it the one imposed by your coach?

A: Balanced meals and lots of water. In preparation for fitness testing for the national team, I went on a caloric deficit to lose excess weight. I make sure to eat enough before competitions to ensure that I’m feeling at the top of my game. My diet has always been self-imposed, based on my own research.

Q: The Gift of Life Dragon Boat Team wants to know how do they transition from a recreational team to a competitive one. What piece of advice would you give them to improve and climb up the divisions and win medals?

A: The main difference between a recreational team and a competitive team is how they approach training in the off season. The more time you spend on dragon boat specific training in the off season, the easier it will be to rise in the medal ranks. Teams should also focus on developing leaders who can teach and inspire less experienced teammates. Develop an environment where everyone encourages and supports each other and finally, keep things fun!

Q: Being in the elite level of this competitive sport, in your opinion, what does it require from the athletes? What should they invest in terms of the physical, social, and mental aspects? What are the sacrifices?

A: It requires a commitment to individual and especially team training. Missing paddlers during on-water practices hurts the entire team. This includes paddlers who are injured or who are not mentally ready to commit to the training. Elite paddlers will be forced to sacrifice time spent with their outside social circle, although dragon boat creates an entirely new social atmosphere. You might not have much free time. However, training at an elite level can be combined with a full school or work load with good time management.

Q: Outside the dragon boating world, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

A: Darren Helm of the Detroit Red Wings. He’s not an all-star player, but he’s a fast skater and consistently works hard, making him valuable to his team on defense and on the penalty kill. He has scored big goals in the playoffs for the Red Wings. He even scored 6 playoff goals before his first regular season goal!

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita
 
Photos by Ricky Tjandra. Ricky is also a Dragon Boat World Athlete and is one of the pioneers in bringing the sport in the Waterloo region of Canada. He is a former President of the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Team (UWDBC) and has been coaching the team since.


 
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