Dragon Boat World Athlete: Passion and Love Required

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Wu Chun-Chieh, National Athlete – Chinese-Taipei Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh


NAME: Jay/Wu, Chun-Chieh
BIRTHPLACE: Hualien,Taiwan
AGE: 27yo
HEIGHT: 171cm
WEIGHT: 74kg
STATUS: In a relationship

Asian Dragon Boat Championship 2010, China, 2 Silvers – Open, 500m, 200m
Asian Dragon Boat Championship 2012, Thailand, 2 Golds – Mixed, 2000m, 500m
ADBF Asian Dragon Boat Championships, Korea, 2 Golds – DB22 Mixed, 500m, 200m; 2 Silvers – DB12 Mixed, 500m, 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Championships 2013, Hungary, 2 Golds – DB12 Mixed, 500m, 200m; Bronze – DB12 Open, 200m
East Asian Games – Dragon Boat 2013, China, 2 Golds – DB22 Open, 500m; DB12 Open, 200m; Silver – DB22 Open, 200m; Silver – DB12 Open, 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, Welland, 3 Golds – DB22 Mixed, 1000m; DB12 Open, 2000m, 500m; 2 Bronzes – DB22 Mixed, 2000m, 200m
ADBF Asian Dragon Boat Championships 2016, Adelaide, 4 Golds – DB22 Mixed, 500m, 200m; DB12 Mixed, 500m, 200m

Dragon Boat World Athlete, Wu Chun-Chieh, hails from Hualien, Taiwan. He’s been into canoeing and kayaking before he found his passion and love for dragon boat. This World Athlete loves to watch sports games like NBA, MLB, Canoeing, Swimming, Rowing and a lot more besides.

“Dragon Boat is a very famous sport among the Chinese.”, he said. “It’s a traditional sport that is very significant in our culture.” When Chun-Chieh was only a young boy, he had already witnessed his father racing dragon boats. Later on he learned that the races are being held as part of the Dragon Boat Festival which falls on the on the fifth day of the fifth month (5/5) of the traditional lunar calendar.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh

When Chun-Chieh was 14 years old, he started to train in canoeing with Mr. CaNoe, a Taiwan-based sports club. In 2011, he decided to join the dragon boat team and since he’s an experienced canoeist, it was not difficult for him to learn and master dragon boat paddling.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh

We asked him a few questions about his life as a dragon boater, how the Chinese-Taipei Dragon Boat Team prepares for major races and how they rose to the top.

Q: Where does the Chinese-Taipei National Team usually train? How often do you train and do you have night trainings?

A: We do our trainings at Liyu Lake. It’s in Hualien, Taiwan, where I’m from. We train ten times a week, twice a day. Training lasts for about one to two hours. It’s usually morning or afternoon as we don’t have night trainings.

Q: Is Liyu Lake a good location for the National Athletes? How do you (the athletes) travel going to the trainings? How far is it from your place?

A: It’s a good venue for training aside from the occasional motor boats circling around the lake. I always drive to go to our practices and the distance is just about 20km from my place.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh
Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh

Q: How does the selection process in your team happen? Do you conduct National try-outs? Are your athletes picked from the Universities or Clubs or they need to go for the open try-outs?

A: Most of our team members started in Kayaking. We don’t have any special ways in picking team members. I guess it’s safe to say that the only requirement is passion and love for the sport.

Q: What does it take to be a National Athlete?

A: Never give up and have a big goal and ambition. One needs to be very confident on training and during competition. The most important thing is to keep training and practice a lot.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh

Q: How long do you prepare in competing for the World Championships? What are the preparations? Do you stay in one camp?

A: Four months of preparation. Yes, we train together as a group and we try to keep fit. We stay in one camp when the intensive training season starts.

Q: How do you keep fit? Any tips in keeping a healthy and clean lifestyle?

A: Find someone who loves to exercise and just keep training with them. I try to avoid eating out so I cook for myself.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Wu Chun-Chieh

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

A: Adam van Koeverden. He’s a Canadian sprint kayaker. The very first time I saw him on TV was when he became an Olympic champion. He’s the athlete I look up to and admire the most till now.

Photos: Yu-Hsuan Hsieh, Pei Shao, Allie Gau, 周馬耀, Ed Nguyen

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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The Future of Dragon Boat

Dragon Boat has gained enormous popularity in countries like Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Poland, United States, Hungary, Germany, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Great Britain, Slovak Republic, and Sweden. In Western Asia: Qatar, Israel and United Arab Emirates. In Asia Pacific, it has become widely popular in Myanmar, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, India, Macau, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and China (where it all began some 2,500 years back).

The Future of Dragon Boat

While it is already popular in so many countries, the sport is getting more and more admired and well-liked, as evident in the growing number of membership in the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF). It now has over 80 members and with newcomers from Monaco, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Qatar and Greece.

The following are fifteen definitive wishes that may have crossed your mind as a passionate dragon boater. No matter how wild or crazy these wishes or predictions may be, you have aspired for one, or two, or even five of them, for this sport that we all love. The question is: How do you contribute in pushing to the future of Dragon Boat?

15. To headline in Sports Illustrated Online.

After all, Dragon Boat is such a fun, tough, exciting, and colourful sport. It deserves to be in the ranks of other popular sports such as Basketball, Cricket or Baseball–which often headlines the news on print, online and TV. Are you ready for your close-up?

14. To be able to see a dragon boat coach or an IDBF Official in the cover of TIME Magazine.

For starters, it’s great to have Mike Haslam, Executive President at IDBF and Mike Thomas, Chair Holder for Competition and Technical Commission at IDBF, grace the cover of the weekly magazine. Dragon boat coaches are often neglected and under recognised. They deserve more.

13. To have a dragon boat paddler in the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Dragon boaters are sexy beasts and belles. Enough said already.

12. To be a top story feature on Walt Disney Company’s ESPN.

While the sport has been a part of traditional water sports of many cultures, especially of the Asia and the Pacific, it is now the fastest growing team sports globally. It propagates the advancement of health and fitness and likewise promotes camaraderie and sportsmanship. I would want to watch an exclusive feature of it in the most popular sports channel.

11. To have individual paddlers rise to colossal stardom.

Like other team sports, dragon boat paddlers deserve to have the recognition and popularity as that of David Beckham (Soccer), Lionel Messi (Soccer), Sachin Tendulkar (Cricket), Shahid Afridi (Cricket), Alex Rodriquez (Major League Baseball), Derek Jeter (MLB), Lebron James (Basketball), Brittney Griner (Basketball), Kobe Bryant (Basketball) or Christiano Ronaldo (Soccer).

10. For teams to become strong valuable global brands.

Think of dragon boat teams becoming as big as the New York Yankees, Real Madrid or Manchester United. Souvenir shops selling merchandise with your team name and logo on mugs, scarves, pens, t-shirts, and key chains. Oh, and yes, a co-branding on Gatorade Tumblers is not impossible, too. This could happen.

9. For the Academe to provide Athletic Scholarships for Dragon Boat.

Imagine getting a free college education for Dragon Boating. It wouldn’t also hurt to have more empirical researches and studies about this sport; and to cite Dragon Boat in the core subjects taken by Sport Science Majors. In some universities, it is already a Sport Elective in the Physical Education courses. Way to go!

8. For Universities and Colleges to pay their dragon boat student-athletes.

This will lead to creating student-athletes to jumpstart a sporting career in dragon boat while studying. Ultimately, that’s where and how the big names in Basketball and other sports get discovered.

7. For National Sports Agencies to compensate their Dragon Boat National Teams fairly.

In the future, we really wish that each country’s Sports Commission or Sports Ministry would allocate same allowances and grants for the Dragon Boat sport–an equal footing with Table Tennis, Rowing, Basketball, Soccer, Cricket, et cetera. Oh, and, with additional bonuses for successful races and other special perks for these equally hardworking athletes.

6. For NIKE and ADIDAS to create dragon boat designed kits.

These two sportswear giants should start prioritising with their research on dragon boat training wear. Since Dragon boaters, or any athletes of different athletic disciplines for that matter, are fond of buying just about any gear that’s related to the sport, it will be a sure hit. Most especially if the product has the proven technology which maximises the athletic performance. Perhaps Ralph Lauren can take part in the design process, too.

Nike and Adidas, you’re welcome! You may share some of your millions to this blogger for the idea.

5. For EA Sports and other gaming companies to develop a dragon boat sport video and computer games.

Wouldn’t it be fun? Straight line races or long distance races; Tail Race System or Repechage System; Men’s, Women’s or Mixed Classes; Seniors or Juniors; there’s just lots of areas to explore, and, it can be multi-player, too. The game would let players choose on which race venue or race distance they’d want to play; or, they can pick a player’s position or even multi-positions in the boat. To add more excitement to the computer game, it should have race officials to implement the rules of racing, et cetera. Again, it’ll be fun and interactive.

You’re welcome, EA Sports!

4. Live Telecast of the Games

This goes to SKY SPORTS, MSG Network and other major sports networks: Give us a live telecast of the major annual dragon boat events such as the Club Crew World Championships, EDBF European Club Crew Championships, European Nations Champs, Asian Champs, IDBF World Championships.

3. Dragon Boat = Super Bowl

For Dragon Boat to be as big as the Super Bowl–where advertisers would kill to spend millions of their advertising budget on a 30-seconder spot; and to have music big shots like Beyoncé, Bruno Mars or The Black Eyed Peas to perform (as in Halftime) just right before the Semis. It’s not a secret that dragon boaters love to party!

2. For the IDBF World Nations Championships to be like the FIFA World.

Try to imagine the future of dragon boat races where thousands of fans fly in to the host country to watch the races. This will not only promote the sport of dragon boat and its development but will also breed international co-operation and unity. Since it is a water sports, and it attracts massive participation, I think a good mission would be to promulgate awareness and peace on the territorial disputes and claims in the oceans and seas. We only have one planet, let’s share it peacefully.

1. To be a featured event in the Summer Olympic Games.

A bit of good news: IDBF’s application for Recognition in the IOC International Federation had been submitted to the IOC Sports Department and is now in progress. Let’s keep our paddles crossed!

What’s your wish for the future of the sport of dragon boating?

Photo Credit: Kelvin Pao
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