Local dragon boat paddlers capture bronze in Hong Kong

Four Mission women helped the 28-member Fast and Furious earn medal

Four women from the Mission area back from their win in Hong Kong. Left to right: Victoria Cuipka

“Come on you guys, paddle harder, it’s only a bunch of women…old women!”

From the False Creek shore at the qualifying Rio Tinto Dragon Boat races this past June, came this panic-filled shout as the age 50-plus women’s paddlers from Fast and Furious took the lead, winning their qualifying heat against mixed teams and others 20 years younger.

These women are the World Club Crew 28-member team back last month from their bronze medal win in Hong Kong, China.

Two years ago a local dragon boat team set their sights on competing in the World Club Crew Dragon Boat Championships. It began with coach Ben Lee’s vision, and from there a team of dedicated and passionate women, some new to the team, blended into a world class crew.

“These ladies are beyond dedicated,” said Lee. “And their transformation both physically and as paddlers has surprised many teams and their families and friends. I look forward to the challenge of qualifying for the 2014 Worlds in Italy next year in Victoria, and for us, bronze is not the new gold.”

The competition was the team’s first entry into international competition, having qualified with a silver medal at the national championship race in 2011.

There were many highlights on the journey to the worlds, points out Victoria Cuipka, one of the founding team members.

“I was completely taken aback in Hong Kong by the realization we had made it to the worlds, seeing paddlers of all ages from all places who share the same dream.”

Said Ingrid Rennie, a seasoned paddler and one of the newly claimed members from Cultus Lake Dragon Flyers, “Paddling in Hong Kong at the Worlds Club Crew Races was a thrill of a lifetime which I will never forget.”

Rita Holmes, also a founding team member, said: “I was completely overwhelmed as I waited with my team for our first race to begin, realizing that I was about to compete with so many strong, older women from all over the world.”

Another newly claimed member from the Flyers, Mission’s Ann Mohs, commented that “being among world-class athletes felt like all our gruelingly [sic] tough practices, training, tears and expectations had all paid off … we were now where we all wanted to be … among the best.”

Fast and Furious is a member of the Fort Langley Canoe Club. They practise in the Bedford Channel and also False Creek year round where the team practises in dragon boats and outrigger canoes.

Submitted by Ann Mohs