Dragon Boat World Athlete: How to Stay Physically and Mentally Energetic

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Carl Marco Wassén, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Sweden (Sverige).

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén


NAME: Carl Marco Wassén
BIRTHPLACE: Sollentuna, Stockholm, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
HEIGHT: 188cm
WEIGHT: 107kg
STATUS: In a relationship

ICF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships Milan 2012, Silver – Open, Small Boat, 2000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships Szeged 2013, U-24, Gold – Open, Small Boat, 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships Szeged 2013, U-24, Silver – Mixed, Standard Boat, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Szeged 2013, U-24, Bronze – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
ICF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Poznan 2014, Bronze – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
ECA European Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Auronzo di Cadore 2015, Gold – Mixed, Standard Boat, 200m
ECA European Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Auronzo di Cadore 2015, 3 Bronzes – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m; Small Boat, 200m; Open, Small Boat 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Welland 2015, U-24, 2 Bronzes – Mixed, Standard Boat, 200m, 2000m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

For this exclusive interview, Carl Wassén, our Dragon Boat World Athlete from Sweden, has shared with us a very interesting insight about the “dragon boat ecosystem” in his beloved country. His hopes are high that the sport will grow bigger in the near future and that it’s good to promote the sport by developing young athletes. Let’s find out more about this Dragon Boater-cum-Kayaker-cum-Power Lifter.

Carl was a Sprint Kayaker before he got immersed into the fiery world of dragon boat. “I first came to try dragon boat in spring of 2012”, he shared. “Prior to that, I did sprint kayaking and I had no idea about dragon boat at all. I got a call from Thomas Lundblad, the Head Coach of Team Sweden at that time, asking me to try dragon boating.”, Carl recalls. “In the beginning I was not so keen to join due to the fact I wanted to focus on kayaking alone but Thomas managed to convince me and then later on, I found out that dragon boat really suited me.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

After months of intensive training, Carl became a part of the National Team who competed in Milan, Italy, for the ICF World Championships in the fall of 2012. His first dragon boat team was Örnbergs KK, a Stockholm-based sports team and in 2013 he started competing with Kajakklubben Eskimå, a dragon boat team from Karlskrona, Sweden.

Q: We’re aware that aside from Dragon Boat, you also do Power Lifting as a sport. What benefits do you get from both sports?

A: Yes I do compete in power lifting (squat, bench press and deadlift) on a national level. In fact, if I may share, I hold the National Record in Deadlift in the -105 category during the year 2014-2015. I guess the mix of kayaking and power lifting made me a good dragon boater. That raw strength you get from power sport is beneficial and the basics of kayaking helped me a lot in dragon boating. I think dragon boating is more of a power sport than kayaking due to the heavy boats that the crew needs to paddle and push to go faster. If you can transfer a 700 pound deadlift into your stroke, it would certainly be beneficial to speed up the boat.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

Q: What can you advice athletes who are doing multiple sports that are, in a manner of speaking, of much different discipline?

A: Well of course it’s difficult to be doing both elite level sports at the same period of time. I can do them separately due to the fact that the competitions fall on different seasons. Anyway, I think it’s good to have a break after an intensely competitive season and focus on something else. It’s mentally and physically beneficial to the athlete. I think the key to success in sport is staying physically and mentally energetic by staying motivated and free from physical obstacles like injuries and illnesses. I believe that having a one-track mind on something can be counterproductive in a way, so it’s good to have a quick interval or shift of focus.

Q: What drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boating?

A: Basically it’s about the joy and excitement that I get from the competitions and the sport in general. I like the atmosphere around the competitions and the pursuit to go as fast as possible on the water is another pleasure that I get from it. Also, you get to become closer with your teammates and because of the time you spend together, you become good friends.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

Q: In your journey to becoming a World Athlete in dragon boat, can you share with us who are your greatest supporters?

A: A friend and trainer who always pushed and supported me in my paddling is Johan Stridh. He’s a teammate from my home club and he’s a former athlete in sprint kayak and dragon boat, both on elite levels. He’s been very supportive and very keen in keeping me on the water especially during periods when the motivation had been poor. My parents have also been very supportive in everything that I do, including dragon boat.

Q: If you are not competing or training, what does Carl do in his free time?

A: I study to be a teacher in Physical Education. Apart from this, training is the biggest part of my life.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

Q: When you retire as a paddler, do you see yourself coaching dragon boat in the future?

A: For the moment I am not so interested on that part of the sport. It’s especially hard to be a coach when you only get very small economic support from the federation. Dragon boat is still a very small sport in our country and most people see it as a non-competitive sport. We are not really welcome in the Swedish canoe federation and we don’t have a proper Swedish Championship due to the low amount of practitioners. This is understandable. It’s a difficult task to change people’s attitude and perspective on the sport (dragon boat); but due to the international success in the last five years and the establishment of the U-24 team, the sport is growing in popularity for the first time in many years, especially among young paddlers.

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

A: Johan Olsson, a World Champion in Cross-country Skiing. He’s a genuine person who remained to be humble despite being a multiple Olympic medalist. I admire his skills in both the physical and technical aspects in his discipline.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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