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: 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

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Carl Marco Wassén
BIRTHPLACE: Sollentuna, Stockholm, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Left
HEIGHT: 188cm
WEIGHT: 107kg
STATUS: In a relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
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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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

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Josefine Jönsson
BIRTHPLACE: Lund, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 1.82cm
WEIGHT: 82kg
STATUS: In a Relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
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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