Dragon Boat World Athlete: From Neophyte to World Champion

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Corinne Hanlon, National Athlete – Canadian National Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon


NAME: Corinne Hanlon
BIRTHPLACE: Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
AGE: 26yo
HEIGHT: 173cm
WEIGHT: 66kg
STATUS: In a relationship

IDBF Club Crew World Championships 2010, 3 Bronzes  – U23 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 1000m
IDBF World Dragonboat Racing Championship 2011, 4 Golds – U23 Women’s, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m
IDBF Club Crew World Championships 2012, 3 Silvers – U24 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 2000m
IDBF World Dragonboat Racing Championship 2015, 8 Golds – Mixed, U24 Women’s Mixed, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m

Our featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, Corinne Hanlon, is a graduate of University of Waterloo with a Masters Degree in Geochemistry. This World Champion loves indie music and board games, especially Dominion. She has a twin sister, “a non-dragon boater though”, she said. Corinne now paddles with the Outer Harbour Warriors. She describes them as a group of extremely hard working folks who love to paddle.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon


The very first time Corinne experienced dragon boating was in 2009. It was during the United Way Charity Regatta, at a camp where she used to work. She was never into sports back then but when school started, and because of that first dragon boat experience, she joined the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Club (UWDBC).

“I started attending more practices.”, she recalled. “After the first summer racing with UWDBC, I knew this was the team I wanted to be on for the rest of my university days. They showed me what being part of a team is really like, and that’s what really pushed me to become the athlete that I am today.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon
Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon


Corinne’s first international exposure was in 2010. She paddled with the Pickering Dragon Boat Club (PDBC) U24 in Macau, China for the Club Crew World Championships (CCWC). The following year, she tried out for Canadian National Team U24 where she successfully earned a spot in the Women’s Team.

“I followed a training schedule that our coach gave me.”, she said. “I tried to watch my diet as best as I could (being the noob I was), particularly during the months leading up to the competition. Most importantly, I learned that I love to compete. I wanted to win, and I was willing to put in the work to win.”

When asked on her decision to join the National Team: “It was a great learning experience and I got the chance to see a national team try-out process from beginning to end. I got to work with some great coaches, and I got to see what it’s like to paddle in a really fast boat, and I loved it.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon
Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

A Magnanimous Act

In 2012, the UWDBC received a very generous donation from Dragon Boat Canada, the official governing body for the sport of Dragon Boat in Canada. It was a dragon boat and a storage container. It came just in time for their preparation for CCWC in Hong Kong.

“It was an amazing development. Before that season we had to travel to Toronto on weekends to train; but when we had our own boat, we could get out on the water any day of the week, at any time of day, and boy did we take advantage! That summer was filled with late night paddle practices, early morning drylands, and team bonding days.”, Corinne reminisced.

While she’s excited to bring her paddling career to the next stage, let’s discover how she prepares for races, her healthy perspective of the sport and her take on what would boost more interest in the sport.

Q: As a National Athlete who had previously competed in Club Crew World Championships (CCWC) in Macau and Hong Kong, in terms of preparation, what is the main difference between representing a club as opposed to representing your country?

A: The selection process is a bit different. When you are representing your club, your club must qualify the previous year at Nationals. When you are representing your country, you must try out for the team as an individual.

Q: You mentioned that you started to compete internationally from 2010; if any, how did it change your perspective on the ‘competitiveness’ of this sport?

A: Competing locally, you really only see the teams that are in the vicinity, although occasionally some teams travel in from Montreal, Vancouver, or the US. I don’t think I realized the true expanse of the dragon boat community until I competed internationally. It was (and always is) really cool to see the huge number of teams from around the world come together to compete.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon
Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Q: Dragon Boat brings people and even nations together, aside from this, what are the other benefits?

A: It sounds cheesy, but it’s a great way to stay fit and have fun. Your teammates will be your friends for life, and you will never work as hard in the gym or on the water as when your team is there, counting on you and supporting you at the same time.

Q: Do you sometimes play a mental video of a race against your toughest competition?

A: I don’t like visualizing really tough competition, because doing so usually causes me to panic and not paddle well. I try to visualize a race which I will be happy with myself for racing, and that allows me to focus, stay in control, and give it my all.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Q: From 2009 up to the present, you must have trained with several coaches already, what is the most common impact/lesson from among your coaches which you’d remember for the longest time?  Can you share it with us and how did it affect you as a person?

A: Take care of yourself and paddle smart. Being competitive athletes, it’s easy to get caught up in the training. Make sure to drink lots of water, sleep at least 8 hours a night, and take care of injuries. Your team needs you to be strong AND healthy.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Corinne Hanlon

Q: In 2012, Dragon Boat Canada has donated a boat to your team. This was a very generous move by the Association; moreso, a great way to promote the sport. What is your personal idea of boosting our sport to be at par with the more popular ones?

A: Yes, it was extremely generous! Having access to a boat streamlined the formation of the Waterloo Paddling Club, and since then it has expanded to include teams of UWaterloo Alumni, Breast Cancer Survivors, and high school students in the Waterloo Region. In my opinion, continued outreach will help in boosting interest in the sport.

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

A: Definitely Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. Aside from her impressive weightlifting, her determination, focus, and light-heartedness are all inspiring attributes.

Photos: George Wang, Alexandra Hennig, Ricky Tjandra, Colleen Leung, Fancy Lai, Vincent Chu, Anthony Gallaccio, Ed Nguyen

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Thank you, Dragon Boat World!

Dragon Boat Teams

This gratitude cloud graphic was generated through the search results which we have collected online. These teams are among those who have shared our articles and ‘list-icles’ about dragon boat. It’s such a delight and joy to see the massive number of shares, likes and comments about our posts and features.

A VERY VERY HUGE thanks to all the dragon boat teams, clubs, associations and federations all over the world who have been sharing our posts on their Facebook pages and on their Twitter accounts. All our dragon boat posts have now populated over 50,000 Views (and still counting minute by minute) and you are a whacking part of this success. You are the true dragon boat advocates and agents and we can not thank you enough.

As we have read your tweets, Facebook comments and blog comments, we are happy to marvel that most of you often find our posts to be entertaining, insightful, funny, and, most of all authentic. To simply put it, perhaps it’s because we are passionate dragon boaters just like you are, that’s why you can relate to us; and because of this readership and patronage, we are indeed pumped up and inspired to give you more. (Oh, and if there is anything that you need to let us know (corrections, suggestions, et al.) to help improve our blog, please feel free to do so.)

A long line of Paddle Salute also goes to the tens of thousands of dragon boaters and supporters from all across the world who have spent time to read, like, comment and share our posts about this amazing sport that we all love. THANK YOU and keep breathing fire and always let go of that inner dragon in you during the races. Paddles Up!

Can you find your team on the Gratitude Cloud Graphic? If not, we will make another one soon, so please continue to share our TOP POSTS and FEATURES.

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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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