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


NAME: Josefine Jönsson
BIRTHPLACE: Lund, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 1.82cm
WEIGHT: 82kg
STATUS: In a Relationship

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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Why should Dragon Boaters care about Breast Cancer?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why is dragon boat often identified with this cancer type? Why should we dragon boaters observe this awareness month and why must we end the apathy?

Knowing the Numbers

According to American Cancer Society, “There is an estimated 1,676,600 new breast cancer cases among women worldwide in 2012. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in both developed and developing countries.” [Cancer.org¹]

“Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. Breast cancer in men in the United States for 2015 are: About 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed; About 440 men will die from breast cancer.” [Cancer.org²]

World Health Organization reports: “Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012. The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of: lung (1.59 million deaths); liver (745,000 deaths); stomach (723,000 deaths); colorectal (694,000 deaths); breast (521,000 deaths); oesophageal cancer (400,000 deaths).” [World Health Organization³]

Awaken the Dragon

Birth of Breast Cancer Paddling Movement

It started in 1996 when a Sports Medicine Physician, Dr Donald McKenzie, from the University of British Columbia in Canada discovered that by following a special exercise and training program, women could avoid lymphedema and enjoy active, full lives. The 3-month dragon boat training program was carefully monitored by a sports medicine physician, a physiotherapist and a nurse. Dr McKenzie’s theory was proven correct. No new cases of lymphedema occurred and none of the existing cases became worse. [IBCPC⁴]

It was in that year that Abreast In A Boat was established. Its membership grew and involved more and more breast cancer survivors; and then later on inspired new teams to be formed. Its journey lives on until this day with a mission: “We paddle to raise breast cancer awareness and to demonstrate that women living with breast cancer can lead full and active lives.”

Inclusivity and Participation

The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission or IBCPC holds a seat in the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) Commission Chair under Protocol, Culture and Heritage Commission (PC&HC). IBCPC governs the BCS Participatory Festivals and the Combined Racers Division in the Club Crew World Championships (CCWC). This division is open for entry for Breast Cancer Survivors Crew (BCS), All Cancer Survivors Crew (ACS), and Paradragons/Adaptive Paddlers Crew (APC).

It is such a comfort and joy to know that these breast cancer survivors are enjoying the sport of dragon boat and while they promote fitness and health benefits of the sport, they also relay a beautiful message of hope for recovery to those who are currently fighting the disease and those who may have just been diagnosed. IBCPC now has over 150 member teams from all over the world with most teams from Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and the United Kingdom.

IBCPC Participatory Dragon Boat Festival

The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Participatory Dragon Boat Festival or IBCPC PDBF is being held every three or four years. The first race took place in Vancouver, Canada (2005). The succeeding venues were: Caloundra, Australia (2007), Peterborough, Canada (2010), and Sarasota, Florida, United States (2014). The next event will be held in Florence, Italy. It is scheduled to happen between June and September in 2018.

Awaken the Dragon Sunset

Remembering and Honouring

In our quest to help campaign on the awareness of the disease, we’d also like to embolden everyone, survivors and supporters, to join or support any breast cancer dragon boat team in your area. Let us help one another in promulgating awareness, early detection, prevention as well as the treatment of breast cancer.

This October, as we go to our team practices or for competitions, let us remember our dearest friends, family members and teammates who’ve lost their battle against the disease. It would be good to have a brief moment of silence in the boat and rekindle those days when they were still paddling with us.

To all dragon boaters, please have yourselves checked and encourage everyone to do the same. Yes, this disease is more common to women, yet men can develop breast cancer, too. We are in this battle together.

Are you ready.. Attention! GO GET SCREENED!


¹ “10 Must-Know 2015 Global Cancer Facts.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 4th February 2015. Web. 28th September 2015.
² “Cancer.” Media Centre. World Health Organization, February 2015. Web. 28th September 2015.
³ “Breast Cancer in Men” Learn About Cancer. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 26th February 2015. Web. 30 September 2015.
⁴ “History of BCS Dragon Boat Paddling” The Origins of Breast Cancer Paddling. International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission, 2008. Web. 28 September 2015.

*Photos used with permission from Liz Oakley, Filmmaker of the Award-winning Documentary, “Awaken the Dragon.” Are you a survivor or do you love someone who is? Share your story of survivorship or of dragon boating HERE.

What He Did For Love | A Tribute to Lee Kuan Yew

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I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.

Lee Kuan Yew (1923–2015)

This post is a tribute to the life and times of the visionary leader, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He relinquished his life today at the age of 91.

Known to be the Father of Singapore, he helped build Singapore transform and rise to be amongst the First World. Apparently, though, this year is also Singapore’s 50th celebration of independence; it’s such a sad, sad circumstance that he will miss it.

Today, and certainly for many many years, we’ll always remember, with love and pride, his legendary leadership and contribution to Singapore, to South East Asia and to the rest of the world; and, clearly one that’s truly worth emulating. He is well loved and respected all over the globe—this, to us, is his greatest accomplishment–in his life, and, yes, in history.

His life and his legacy is a gift to us, to Singapore, and to the society in general. Let’s carry on with what the great man has built. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his national address, “Let us dedicate ourselves as one people to build on his foundations, strive for his ideals, and keep Singapore exceptional and successful for many years to come.”

Thank you very much for everything you have done for love of country, your dearly beloved Singapore–for showing us how beautiful, how fierce and how strong that love is.

Fly high, Minister Mentor Lee!

On Winning and Losing

“On Winning and Losing” an inspiring story by Jen Macapagal. Thank you for all the positive reinforcements you would deploy to always keep us motivated in our pursuit of goal achievement. Mabuhay ka!


Jen is a Dragon Boater, Triathlete, Poet, Creative Writer, Photographer & Graphic Designer.
Follow Jen on Twitter: @jenmacapagal

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All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Walt Disney

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