Dragon Boat World Athlete: From Canoeing to Dragon Boating

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Erik Åke Öberg, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Sweden (Sverige).

Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Erik Åke Öberg
BIRTHPLACE: Vinninga, Lidköping Municipality, Sweden
AGE: 23yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Both
HEIGHT: 185cm
WEIGHT: 87kg
STATUS: In a Relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, Gold – Open, U24, Small Boat, 200m; Silver – Mixed U24, Standard Boat, 1000m; Bronze – Mixed U24, Standard Boat 500m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, Bronze – Mixed U24, Standard Boat, 2000m; Bronze – Mixed U24, Standard Boat, 200m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg
Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg


Swedish World Dragon Boat Athlete, Erik Åke Öberg, has been racing in competitive Canoeing (Men’s Kayak Singles, K1) before he got into the sport of dragon boat. He’s a member of a flat water racing club Lidköpings Kanotförening and have been representing the club since he started paddling. Because of Erik’s vast experience in paddling and competing in flatwater racing, he was noticed by the dragon boat coach to have a big potential for the national team.

Erik was then asked by the National Coach if he wants to try out for the national team selection. “Yes, I really want this!”, he thought. He worked hard and went through the fitness, endurance and paddling selection process and eventually made it to the Swedish Dragon Boat Team. Amazingly, though, it’s also his first dragon boat team ever. “I have been paddling dragon boats since 2012 and loved it from the very first stroke.”, Erik said.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg
Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg

Though there aren’t many dragon boat paddlers or teams in Sweden, it doesn’t stop the members of the National Team to strive to be the best during the European and World Championships. The support system within the Swedish team plays an integral part on their success and team unity. They are a bunch of hardworking, dedicated, and fun-loving paddlers. They even have a resident Tenor on their team–their very own Luciano Pavarotti.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg
Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg


Q: Being in the National team is a tough responsibility. What keeps you going?

A: The fact that I can become better, I have always liked to challenge myself and what greater challenge than compete against the world’s greatest?

Q: How did your experience in Sprint Kayak or any other sports helped you in developing your Dragon Boat skills?

A: My experience in sprint kayak have helped me a lot, thanks to the kayaking skills I have developed. I was able to train with some of the world’s greatest sprint kayakers and learned a lot from them. I’m thankful for the opportunity that it made me more capable to perform well in dragon boat.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg
Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg

Q: What other exercises do you do if your team is not training for Dragon Boat?

A: I train a lot of sprint kayaking, cross-fit and powerlifting; a good balance of endurance and power is the key to being successful in your chosen sport.

Q: How do you manage your pre and post training nutrition? Any tips on keeping fit?

A: The key is to always plan ahead. If you know that you are going to have a long day at work or school, bring all the food you will need for the day. For example I always bring three or four bananas and supplements with me when I go to school so that I know I have something to eat between meals and before and after training.

Q: Is it your own research or is it imposed by your coach?

A: It is my own research and knowledge based on experience, when you have been competing and training for many years you learn what your body needs in order for you to achieve your best performance. But a good tip for beginners is to keep it simple, bananas get you a long way.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg
Dragon Boat World Athlete Erik Åke Öberg

Q: How do you envision the Team Sweden’s performance in the coming EDBF Champs?

A: I hope we do well! This year we are not going to compete in the U24 group which means that the competition is going to be harder, but we are up for the task!

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

A: I admire Anders Gustafsson, a former World Champion in K1 500m. From 2009 to 2012, Anders has bagged individual medals in Canoeing at the World Championships, European Championships and World Cup Competition. He is a not just a great athlete but also a great guy and friend of mine.


Photo Credits: Christoffer Carlsson, Cissi Velin, Ed Nguyen Photography, Jan Fransson, Joacim Petersson, Michaela Jonsson Lindblad, Karl Lind, TiszaDokk

 
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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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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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The Future of Dragon Boat

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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