The Bay of Plenty dragon boat club are among the local winners of the recently-concluded World Masters Games.
Their two teams – an over 50s women’s crew and an over 60s mixed crew – paddled against competitors from all over the world on Lake Pupuke.
On Saturday the over 60s battled heavy rain to claim silver in the 500 metres, beaten by the Russians by 0.3 of a second.
On Sunday they went one better in the 200 metres, beating Ukraine to take the gold medal.
The women’s crew were in a large division against many teams but were not able to make the finals on the Saturday, while their times on Sunday were not fast enough to gain a medal.
Bay of Plenty dragon boat club president Colleen Harris says the conditions were ‘hideous’, making the races even more difficult.
“The wind was worse than the rain. The first day it just poured, but the lake was reasonably calm. But the next day was like paddling in waves – there white caps on the water. We were lucky there weren’t any capsizes.”
She describes dragon boating as like paddling a very large waka, with a dragon head and tail at either end.
“It’s a sport that originated in China, and is hugely popular throughout Asia. It’s now grown to become very popular in Europe, Canada, and United States as well.
“In a full boat there are 20 paddlers, and 10 in a small boat, plus a person steering at the back with a large oar. They’re in charge of the boat.” That’s the position Colleen herself fills.
“If you go out of your lane, you get disqualified or penalised. It’s not easy to keep them travelling in a straight line either.”
She says in their division there were only four teams, although in total there were around 50 to 60 teams in the entire regatta.
“They mostly came from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – however, no teams came from China.”
Colleen says the average age of the 28,000 competitors was 54, which is great for older athletes.
“It just proves you’re never too old to compete.”