Dragon Boat World Athlete: Medals are Not the Ultimate Goal

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Nutcharat Chimbanrai, National Athlete – Thailand Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Nutcharat Chimbanrai

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Nutcharat Chimbanrai นุจเรศ ฉิมบ้านไร่
BIRTHPLACE: Samutprakarn, Thailand
AGE: 25yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Part-time
POSITION: Captain
PADDLING SIDE: Left
HEIGHT: 170cm
WEIGHT: 62kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, GoldWomen, 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, GoldWomen, 500m
Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) 2015, Silver – Women 12, 200m
Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) 2015, Gold – Women 12, 500m
Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) 2015, Gold – Women 6, 200m
Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) 2015, Gold – Women 6, 500m


Nutcharat Chimbanrai, our featured Dragon Boat World Athlete from Thailand, has been doing dragon boat for 12 years now. She was part of the team called: “2550”; her very first dragon boat team. In Thailand, when you are from 2550, it means that you belong to one of the strongest teams and then you are likely to be considered for the National Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Nutcharat Chimbanrai

“We live near the river”, she said. “Most of my life, I would say, it’s either I’m in the water or in the boat. As I grow up, I would always watch the annual boat race near our house as part of a tradition. I guess that’s where my love for dragon boat racing all began. My first dragon boat race was with 2550 and then I was selected to compete in the Southeast Asian Games 2007 held here in Thailand.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Nutcharat Chimbanrai

Let’s get to know more about Nutcharat (or Nut for short) and her dragon boat journey. You’ll be surprised to know her take on what’s an “ultimate goal” really is in dragon boat.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Nutcharat Chimbanrai


Q: It’s tough to qualify for Thailand Dragon Boat Team. Aside from experience and a certain fitness level that one must possess, can you simply describe it in two words?

A: Strength. Endurance.

Q: Where do you practice in Thailand? How many times in a week does Thailand National team practice? How many hours in one day?

A: We practice in Siam Country Club in Chonburi. Sometimes we hold trainings in the reservoirs, rivers or canals at the Chaiya District. There is no definite training schedule; it varies on what needs to be done or improved.

Q: What are the benefits of being a National Athlete?

A: I have found love and great friends in my dragon boat team. They are like my family. I have learned about the importance of teamwork.

Q: How big is the Team Thailand now? How many men? How many women?

A: There are 26 men and 26 women. It’s equal in number.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Nutcharat Chimbanrai

Q: As a seasoned National Athlete, what does the sport of dragon boat mean to you?

A: The traditional boat race for me means to demonstrate unity.

Q: You have already won medals in the Southeast Asian Games and World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, what is your ultimate goal in your dragon boating career?

A: We play sports like dragon boat because we love doing it. The awards and medals are only a small part of it. Yes, you will strive to be the best but in so doing, loving and enjoying the sport is already an ultimate goal achieved.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Nutcharat Chimbanrai

Q: Outside of Dragon Boat, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

A: Buakaw Banchamek. He’s a Muay Thai Kickboxing Champion. While I have no intentions of learning this sport, I do admire him for his focus and motivation. He doesn’t succumb to any obstacles.

*This interview has been edited and condensed
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: The Man Behind the Paddler–My Coach in the Boat, My Dad at Home

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Germany.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Robin Eschbach
BIRTHPLACE: Bad Säckingen, Germany
AGE: 22yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler, Captain of Thunder Dragons
PADDLING SIDE: Right and Left
HEIGHT: 1.83cm
WEIGHT: 82kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Open, 1000m, 2013
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, SilverPremier Open, 500m, 2013
EDBF European Championships, GoldPremier Open 200m, 2000m, 2012
German National Championships, GoldPremier Open 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015


Our next featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, Robin Eschbach, hails from Bad Säckingen, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. When Robin is not busy training and competing to represent his country, he works as a climbing and a Stand Up Paddling (SUP) instructor. He’s been doing Kayaking as an alternative competitive sport for 16 years now.

In 1999, when he was still a member of his Kayaking club, that was when he was introduced to the dragon boat world by no less than his own father, Matthias Eschbach. Ten years of hard work and a huge breadth of experience later, he competed in his first Dragon Boat Premier race; but this time, in the same boat together with his dad.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach

During that time, Robin said, “Dad was my teacher and also the Captain of the club– Thunder Dragons. He was and still is my strongest influence in my dragon boating career and through him I learned a lot about the sport’s techniques and race structures, including sportsmanship and lessons in losing and winning races.”

Let’s get to know more about Robin, his passions and what other sport he does aside from Dragon Boat.


Q: How long have you been with the German National Team? How long did it take you to qualify in the team?

A: It’s my 5th year now and I’m proud to be able to get in the team during my first shot. 🙂

Q: Aside from Dragon Boat, what other sports do you do to maintain your fitness level?

A: In the summer I’m also doing Kayaking, Canoeing and Stand Up Paddling and during winter I’m doing cross country Skiing and training units in the gym to keep my fitness level up.

Robin Eschbach Dragon Boat World Athlete

Q: How long do you prepare for a competition like World Championships? Which major race are you preparing for next?

A: I always try to train a lot but then on the last three to four months before the competition I would increase the intensity of my training. The next race I’m preparing for is the European Championships in Laghetto dell’EUR, Rome, Italy, 27th-31st July 2016 and the upcoming German Nationals where I will be paddling with my club team.

Robin Eschbach Dragon Boat World Athlete

Q: Any personal ritual you have before you get in the boat before racing? If none, how do you keep your focus on the race?

A: I have no personal ritual before the race; but I just try to keep my focus on the race and still keep in mind the race structure and the technical details of it. I always look forward to the “silence” during the Starts. I believe it is important for a team to remain constantly motivated in reaching for their goals.

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

A: That would be Martin Johnsrud Sundby. He is a Norwegian Cross Country Skier and I admire him because he trains more than any other Skiers in the World Cup (and they train a lot). With a lot of hard work that he put in his training, he has dominated all the male Skiers in the World Cup this year. So I admire his attitude to train more than everyone else in order for him to reach his goals.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach

L-R: Matthias Eschbach, Robin Eschbach, Felix Stortz, Jörg Kaltenbacher

“Two years ago, while my dad was still paddling with the team, I took over his place as the club’s Captain. I am very proud to have become a successful paddler and Captain because of him—my Coach in the boat and my father at home. I would say that I owe him most of my success in this sport; especially when I first went for tryouts for Team Germany in 2011.”, Robin ended.


 
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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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