Dragon Boat World Athlete: Are you too young to start Paddling?

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Paul Alex Kandler, National Athlete – Team Germany.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Paul Alex Kandler
BIRTHPLACE: Neustrelitz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
AGE: 20yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Part-time
POSITION: Paddler (Occasional Pacer/Schlagmann)
PADDLING SIDE: Right
HEIGHT: 186cm
WEIGHT: 85kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
German Championships 2014, Schwerin, Bronze – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
9th IDBF Dragon Boat Club Crew World Championships, Ravenna, Bronze – Mixed, Small Boat, 500m (Uckermark U18)
Vize European Master 2014, Silver – Mixed, Standard Boat, 2000m
Vize European Master 2014, 2 Bronzes – Mixed, Standard Boat, 2000m, 500m
Vize European Master 2014, Bronze – Open, Small Boat, 200m
11th EDBF European Dragon Boat Nations Championships, Racice, Bronze – U18, Small Boat, 200m
Vize Weltmeister 2015, 2 Silvers – Open, Small Boat, 2000m, 500m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, Welland, 2 Silvers; 1 BronzeOpen, Small Boat; U24 Small Boat, 200m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler


It’s beneficial to become athletic at a young age. Though it’s not set in stone as to what age is ‘too young’ for one to start, it certainly helps to be exposed to sports early–it keeps the body active and it also helps improve self-esteem and physical health. Experts say that athletes tend to develop their mental abilities better than non-athletes.

According to results of a study by Jocelyn Faubert, “It is clear that a remarkable mental processing and learning abilities should be acknowledged as critical elements for world-class performance in sport and potentially elite performance abilities in other dynamic contexts¹.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

While it doesn’t matter what kind of sport you’re leaning to focus on, starting young gives you more room for discovery and finding your true passion. Just like our next featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, 20 year old, Paul Alex Kandler from Germany.

As a kid, Paul grew up to be fond of any kinds of sports. He played football for several years until the time came when he found his passion in water sports–Stand Up Paddling (SUP), Outrigger Canoeing (OC) and Dragon Boat. He was introduced to the Dragon Boat world through his school team, Carolinum Dragons, and from there he had fallen deep under the ‘spell of the dragon’.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

From his school team in 2013, he joined a local competitive club called: Strelitz Dragons. That’s where he became more and more serious with the sport. He began to join large-scale dragon boat competitions and have clinched several medals with his home team. From then on he was determined to enhance his paddling skills and join major races like the Nationals, Continental and Worlds. He’s been competing for four years now and at his young age, he’s had shown exceptional potential to arise in Premiere level in the near future.

So for those of you who started paddling in your teens like Paul, keep doing what you’re doing and if you aspire to one day represent your country in the World Championships, the right time to start working for it is now. Let’s read on Paul’s experience being with the National Team and what’s the best lesson he has learned from it.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler
Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler


Q: Who was your first coach in dragon boat? Who was your first coach in Outrigger Canoe (OC)?

A:My first dragon boat coach was my PE teacher Mr Pfitzner. Now my coaches are from the National Team. In OC, I’m my own coach.

Q: How long have you been with Team Germany? How is the experience so far?

A: I have paddled with the National Team for three years now and can only say that we (athletes) have no fear. Having said this, one just needs to believe in himself that he can do it. The National Team is very sociable and accepting of everyone who has the passion. In the training camp, the athletes give their best to master the training programme. It’s like everyone is racing against themselves. Although the training programme gets intense by the day, no matter what level or age group you are in, with the right workout there is no problem.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler
Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

Q: Will you be representing Team Germany in the upcoming EDBF Championships in June?

A: Yes. I trained hard to be selected and only recently I got the news from our trainer that I got in and I must be there to help the crew.

Q: How are the preparations for the European Championships in June in Rome, Italy?

A: The preparations run according to the training plan that the coach have designed. We have to fulfill it as planned and we have to attend the regular training camps in order for us to have achieve a common goal of having a strong, solid boat.

Q: We understand that aside from Dragon Boat, you also do Outrigger Canoe (OC), how does it benefit your paddling in Dragon Boat?

A: OC is a good alternative when I’m not training with my drachenboot (dragon boat) team. It’s also a great balancing workout so that you can paddle both sides and this is very good for the body.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

Q: How do you manage your time between dragon boat and OC? Can you share with us the similarities and differences of these two water sports in terms of paddling stroke? Does the stroke sometimes become confusing?

A: I manage it very well. Since dragon boat is a team sport, everyone needs to be there for training unlike in OC, when my team is not available to practice together, I do OC on my own. As for the force required, OC is more difficult because the OC paddle has a larger blade but paddling technique wise, for me it’s very similar. The confusion in the stroke is minimal. You just have to focus on which boat you are paddling in.

Q: As a National Athlete, what is the best lesson you’ve learned so far from the sport of dragon boat?

A: The best lesson I have learned is to not have fear of learning new techniques and strategies for the good of the team. Dragon boat is not just for one person, if everyone is training hard, it’s the team that gets better.


Reference

1. Jocelyn Faubert, “Professional athletes have extraordinary skills for rapidly learning complex and neutral dynamic visual scenes”, Nature.com, 31st January 2013, Nature Publishing Group, 24th May 2016

 
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: What Dragon Boat Taught Me About Life

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Alice Tran, National Athlete – Team USA.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Alice Tran
BIRTHPLACE: Boston, Massachusetts
AGE: 34yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Part-Time
POSITION: Paddler; Team USA U18 Assistant Coach
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 165cm
WEIGHT: 63.5kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD: 
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2011, 1 Bronze, 2 Silvers – Premier Women, Standard Boat, 500m, 1000m, 2000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, 2 Bronzes – Premier Women, Standard Boat, 500m, 2000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, 1 Gold, 1 Silver – Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 1000m, 2000m
IDBF 1st World Cup 2014, Silver – Premier Men & Women, Small Boat Pursuit Race, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, 1 Gold, 3 Silvers – Premier Women, Standard Boat, 2000m, 200m, 500m, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, 2 Silvers – Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 1000m, 2000m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran


Dragon Boat World Athlete, Alice Tran, grew up knowing about the sport but that little girl didn’t know she would be partaking in it someday and become a World Champion. “I knew about dragon boat ever since I was a little kid.” she said. “I grew up in Boston and the Boston Dragon Boat festival is one of the first and oldest Dragon Boat races in North America. My parents used to take us to the Charles River to watch the races and experience the festivities.”

Recruitment

Like most of us paddlers, we get introduced to dragon boat by paddler friends—very very convincing paddler friends. Alice was recruited by Raymond Lem, a friend and co-worker of hers. Her first try at dragon boating was with M.A.D., a dragon boat team in New York. She went for that ‘mad’ practice with her sister who used to paddle with Boston YMCA. She shared: “My sister moved back to Boston. I stayed and got addicted to the team work and competition of the sport.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

National Team Tryouts

Coaches are gifted to see, smell and feel their athletes’ talent, spirit and potential. Keith Tsui, Alice’s coach at M.A.D., got it right when he asked her to try out for the national team. “I was hesitant as it was only my second year of paddling and had just switched paddling side.”, she said. Alice trained hard for it and she got a call from Coach Bob McNamara congratulating her for making it to Team USA. Alice recalled: “That was the longest two weeks ever but indeed worth the wait and all the hard work paid off. I’ve been trying out for every World Championship since.”

Knowledge Transfer

On her 8th year of paddling, with multiple IDBF World Nations medals on her neck, Alice left Catch22 Dragon Boat NYC to venture on giving back to the (dragon boat) community. “After five years, I left Catch22 at the end of 2015 to pursue something entirely different.”, she said. “Catch22 will always be my legacy. I was there from the beginning and watched the team grow but at that point I felt like I needed to do something for the community and that was to transfer my skills to the next generation and develop new strong paddlers.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Juniors Program @ DCH Racing

DCH Racing New York has a very large juniors program and when Alice had gotten to know DCH, she instantly knew that this was the team she needed to be part of. “They welcomed me with open arms and I have found my new family, too.” she remarked. “I’m looking forward to learning from my new DCH Coach, Randy Ng.”

Life outside of Dragon Boat

Trying out for the National Team also introduced Alice to outrigger canoeing; so when she’s not on a dragon boat she’d be out in the water with her OC1. She loves travelling and so her being in the National Team has fulfilled that–compete and explore. “My favourite part of travelling is exploring other cultures. I try to look for things that locals do.” she said. “I love being outdoors. This is why I love paddling so much. It gives me the opportunity to travel to the most remote locations. I’ve never even heard of Hódmezővásárhely, Hungary until I went to race there. I still can’t pronounce it.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran


Q: In the span of your dragon boating career, was there a time when you had to take a sabbatical leave either from studies or work for the purpose of becoming a full-time athlete?

A: Unfortunately, paddling is a very expensive hobby/sport. In order for me to be the athlete that I am, I need to work. I have a full-time job as an IT project manager. I have to time manage really well in order to train hard. You’ll find me at the gym during lunch time and out on the water after work.

Q: Aside from the training techniques and knowledge you gained from your coaches, do you develop your own personal strategies and resources in keeping up with your teammates in the National Team? 

A: To be honest, Facebook is the best way to keep up with my teammates on the National Team. We are scattered all over the country and have our own lives. We do have things that we rag on each other about. In Welland, Canada, we were driving back to the hotel and we saw a chicken cross the road. I screamed out, “OMG, there really is a chicken crossing the road!” Now, you’ll see chickens plastered all over my page. We do randomly text each other to see how we are all doing and if we will be trying out again. We post our paddling sessions and workouts to motivate and encourage each other.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Q: Speaking of National Team, when the race/training season is off, do you ladies hold a fun-forget-the-training-let’s-party-party? We’re curious to know how the Team USA Women’s crew party?

A: We talked about a reunion at some point but because we all have busy lives it’s really difficult to organise. When we are together there’s a lot of jokes, laughs, and dancing!

Q: How do you obtain satisfaction in the sport in terms of the Coach’s leadership and your personal athletic performance?

A: A trusted relationship between a paddler and coach will make me a better paddler. Being a better paddler and being able to achieve your goals is the ultimate satisfaction. Honestly though, the people that surround me on each team I’ve been on and all the friends I have met around the world is the kind of satisfaction I have obtained in the sport. Nothing can replace that.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Q: Having competed in several World Championships, at what point can you say that you have reached everything in your dragon boating life?

A: I already have two gold medals from World Championships. I think that’s every paddler’s dream. I’m definitely satisfied but there’s always a part of you that itches for more. If you’re young and still able, just keep doing it, right? The fact that I’m working with juniors now, it is opening a new chapter in dragon boating for me. So have I really reached everything? Or is it just the beginning?

Photo Credits: Fernando Huh, Ed Nguyen Photography, WIFC

 
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PHOTOS: Marcel Nguyen qualifies for Rio Olympics

BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Marcel and the rest of Team Germany who qualified for the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5th – 21st August 2016. Germany’s Men’s Gymnastics “Dream Team” is composed of Marcel Nguyen, Andreas Bretschneider, Andreas Toba, Philipp Herder, Ivan Rittschik, Helge Liebrich, and Lukas Dauser. Viel Glück!

Let us share with you some of the most poetic and inspiring shots of double Olympic medalist, Marcel Nguyen. Thanks to the gracious courtesy of 24passion GbR for providing us with an exclusive interview with Marcel and for giving us permission to use these amazing images.


Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR

Marcel Nguyen 24passion GbR


 
Olympic Medalist Marcel Nguyen on his Next Big Goal | An Exclusive Interview

FULL INTERVIEW HERE

Dragon Boat World Athlete: Regaining Strength and Motivation through Dragon Boat

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Josefine Jönsson, National Athlete – Swedish National Dragon Boat Team.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Josefine Jönsson
BIRTHPLACE: Lund, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 1.82cm
WEIGHT: 82kg
STATUS: In a Relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
ECA European Championships 2015, Auronzo di Cadore
Guld – 20manna, Mixed, 200m; Brons – 20manna, Mixed, 500m, 2000m; Silver – 20manna, Women, 500M; Brons – 10manna, Women, 200m, 200m; Brons – 10manna, Mixed, 2000m

ICF World Dragon Boat Racing Championship 2014, Poznan
Silver – 10manna, Women 500m, 2000m; Brons – 20manna, Mixed, 500m

IDBF World Dragonboat Racing Championship 2013, Szeged
Silver – 20manna, U24 Mixed, 1000m; Brons – 20manna, U24 Mixed, 500m

Swedish Nationals 2015, Nyköping
Guld –10manna mix 200m; Silver – 10manna mix 500m

Swedish Nationals 2014, Jönköping
Guld – 10manna, Mixed, 200m, 500m


 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Our Dragon Boat World Athlete from Sweden, Josefine Jönsson, has already won numerous Swedish Nationals in Swimming before she started competing in Dragon Boat races. Josefine studied in the University of Gothenburg to become a health promoter and nutritionist. She pursued to take up Entrepreneurship in hopes of starting her own business one day.

“Before I started paddling I considered myself as a good swim athlete. I train hard to fulfil my dream of representing Sweden in the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, recurring sickness and injuries kept my dream of becoming a professional swimmer to come into reality.”, Josefine recalled.

Though there were some obstructions in her sporting career in the past and it even came to a point where she lost her motivation–all her passions faded. Voila! Three years later, she has regained it all back when a friend and fellow swimmer introduced her to Dragon Boat. It was with the Malmö KK when she first started.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Because of her early experience in elite swimming and her hard work of learning the sport, it did not take long until she joined the National Team. Her first world championship was in 2013 and that was where she won her first U24 medal. She’s now part of KK Eskimå and she’s been paddling with them for three years now.

“Today I have found love for Dragon Boat and a couple of other sports, such as: Boxing, Running, Crossfit, Outrigger Canoeing and Skiing. I enjoy training a lot and I constantly strive to become stronger and better.”, she shared with gusto.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson


Q: Being in the National team is a tough responsibility, what/who keeps you going?

A: My teammates and the fun experience that we share together. We really support each other and try to help each other as much as possible. We sing and dance at our training camps to make it a more fun environment. My love for the sport motivates me to train hard and set big goals. I want to be a world champion, and hopefully one day I could participate in the Olympic Games, competing in Dragon Boat racing.

Q: How intense does your training go, say, two or three months before the race? Does your team stay in a training camp for a certain period of time before the race? Please share to us something about it and what do you think are its benefits?

We increase our paddling training together as a team. Our training schedule remains fairly consistent: We paddle 1-2 days a week, then we run, go to the gym and do other exercises together. We also do a lot of fitness tests both in cardio and in strength. We have 3 training camps from April to July. We make sure that we arrive at the race venue a couple of days before the competition to get acquainted with the boats and to get a feel of the atmosphere at the competition site. Testing out the boats prior to the competition is very important to us because different countries may sometimes use a different kind of dragon boat on a particular kind of race.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Q: What is an effective formula for having or maintaining a ‘solid crew’ in the team?

A: Trust, support, chemistry and having the element of fun in the team. Then, of course, a lot of training together as a team, so that everyone can keep up on the same pace.

Q: Having intensively trained with the Swedish National Team went for several international races, what do you admire most about your fellow athletes?

A: I admire their fighting drive, their high spirits, and the positive mindset to always support each other and help each other with our weaknesses.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Q: Was there a time when you thought of quitting the team? If yes, would you like to share to us the reason why? What was your motivating factor which encouraged you to continue on?

A: I considered leaving the team at one point because it is an expensive sport. Frankly, we need more support from sponsors; and it’s very difficult to get them on board. Simply because it (dragon boat) is still a very small sport here in Sweden. The love I have for the sport and my amazing teammates made me keep on going.

 Dragon Boat World Athlete Josefine Jönsson

Q: Aside from your family and teammates who are together with you on this journey (dragon boating life), is there anyone else that you want to send a message of thanks?

A: I want to thank my boyfriend who supports me no matter what. My best friend, Ida, who always gives me good advice, keeps my hopes up and keeps me laughing.

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

A: Michael Phelps, because he is the best athlete in the world and he has accomplished what people told him was impossible.


 
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Pursuing A World Championship Dream – How Important is Social Support for Athletes?

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Tek Li, National Athlete – Team USA.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Tek Li

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Terence Li
BIRTHPLACE: San Francisco, California, USA
AGE: 25yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Both, but prefer Right side
HEIGHT: 175cm
WEIGHT: 72kg
STATUS: Never married

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships – SilverU23, 2011, Tampa
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships – SilverU24, 2015, Welland


Dragon Boat World Athlete, Tek Li, is the eldest of three. His parents both immigrated to the United States from southern China. He is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. “I’m kind of a neat freak except when work gets busy”, he shared with us.

Tek started to paddle when he was in his second year of high school in 2005. Standing tall at 5’2” (157cm) and weighing 110lbs (50kg), he joined the Mission High School Dragon Boat Team. Since that time, he’s been paddling and likewise honing his leadership and technical skills in the sport. While he progressed as an experienced paddler he also gained the respect of his peers.

Already on his second year as Membership Director at California Dragon Boat Association (CDBA), a role which requires a substantial amount of time and dedication, he’s become more confident and accomplished in carrying out the task. The CDBA has over 1,000 members and is under the Pacific Dragon Boat Association of the West Coast (PDBA USA).

As a seasoned paddler, he was able to help reboot Stanford University’s Dragon Boat Team and then he eventually landed himself a place on his current team, the San Francisco Dragon Warriors. To date, it’s been 11 fun years of dragon boating for him.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Tek Li


Q: Hi Tek, first of all, thank you for providing us with this interview. It’s really a pleasure to be interviewing you. How did you feel at first, when we approached you for this feature?

A: Thanks for the opportunity. I was really surprised that you asked me, I feel like a celebrity. I Just shope that what I’ll share can be inspiring, thought-provoking, or just simply entertaining for your readers.

Q: We want to know how does it ‘really’ feel like to be paddling for one’s country?

A: To me, representing the country is a big deal. Honestly, it’s really scary because I never feel like I’m good enough. When I’m out there during the competition, I suppress that voice of doubt, keeping calm nerves and trying to perform my best. There’s just a lot of pressure.

Q: When your team lands a World Championships podium finish and you’re standing there, elated and victorious with your team mates, what goes on in your head?

A: It’s really a tearjerking moment, to see the training that we’ve put in turn into something. The fact that dragon boating is a team sport makes it all the more special. I am just one piece of the puzzle, but together we did it. When I’m up there, I’m grateful for my teammates for all the team efforts.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Tek Li

Q: Let us move along to something less emotional. 🙂 We understand that trainings, especially in preparation for Worlds, take months and months to prepare and are extremely physically demanding, how do you condition yourself to achieving that long-range goal?

A: It takes a huge amount of dedication, work, and determination to get to and maintain an elite level of fitness. In order to condition myself, I really need someone else to push me. I stay active and train with a home team to get pushed. As disciplined as I want to believe that I am, having a coach and teammates pushing alongside me get me the best results. In addition to being physically fit, there’s a huge mental aspect to conditioning, too. I look for coaches and teammates who would (within reason) challenge me to my limit, to get me to want to fail, and to transcend that mental barrier.

Q: In your USA National Team journey, was there a time where you failed to make it to an international race that you really wanted to be a part of?

A: I wish I could have participated in the IDBF World Dragon Boat Championships 2013 in Hungary. I had travel conflicts and the education program I was in occupied a significant amount of time. Hence, I have not dedicated enough time for training.

Q: How did you cope with the disappointment?

A: I was disappointed. I knew that I didn’t have enough time so I reassessed the amount of time I had. There wasn’t a realistic way for me to happily and sanely complete my education program and train to the elite level. I just told myself that someone equally capable and strong will hopefully earn that spot.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Tek Li

Q: Once the training and preparation starts, how do you manage your time between trainings and your social life? Do you still have one? 🙂

A: Eh. Yes and no. Once training starts, I can’t go out partying every weekend. I spend a lot more time on the water and in the gym instead of out and about. Balance is important though. I’ve been able to coincide rest days with hanging out with friends. I’ve also tried to build in more time to spend with my parents. Also, practices with Dragon Warriors… that’s my social life!

Q: In your opinion, how important is social support for an athlete? For that matter, who are your best supporters?

A: Social support is critical for an athlete. I want people to be proud of me and to be proud of the effort I put forth. I compete because I enjoy training hard, but I wouldn’t be able to get to the world stage if not for my family who instilled the work ethic in me. I would not have made it if my coaches and teammates were not there to push me. My best supporters are my mentors and friends. They share my journey and my ambitions louder and farther than I would ever be able to.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Tek Li

Q: At what point can you say that you have reached everything in dragon boating?

A: Once dragon boating is in the Olympics and I can participate in it, I would have reached everything in dragon boating.

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

A: I really admire Eric Guerrero, a freestyle wrestler. I met him when I went to an Oklahoma State University wrestling camp during the same year that I joined dragon boat. He is a hard worker, disciplined, humble, and approachable. He reached an elite level, but then also gave back to the community as a coach.


Photos by Scott M, Debbie S, Shoulong L, Anthony Gallaccio
 
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