Feature: "Moms' dragon boat team" paddles toward victory, locally and internationally (2024)

Feature: "Moms' dragon boat team" paddles toward victory, locally and internationally (1)

Shatian women's dragon boat team competes in a race in Dongguan, south China's Guangdong Province, June 10, 2023. (Xinhua)

GUANGZHOU, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Feng Lijuan is a banana farmer, Guo Yanting is a stay-at-home mom, and He Guangqun is a barista. Though the three women are in different age groups and lead different lives, they join together every year to compete as a dragon boat racing team.

As all members are mothers, the team is affectionately known as the "moms' dragon boat team" by locals. It reunites each Dragon Boat Festival in Shatian Town, which is located in Dongguan City of south China's Guangdong Province.

For the rest of the year, its members, who range in age from 28 to 62, are busy working and caring for their families. But as the Dragon Boat Festival approaches, they pick up their paddles and prepare to work in sync to reach the finish line. Against the rhythmic beat of drums, they compete for victory in local, national and global races.

The Dragon Boat Festival, also called Duanwu Festival, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on Monday this year. It commemorates Chinese renowned patriotic poet Qu Yuan, who was also a minister of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.). The dragon boat race is one of many traditions of the festival and has developed into a sport.


Feng Lijuan, 54, is one of the team's most experienced members.

She was born and raised in Shatian, a waterside town where residents once lived on boats and relied on the water for their livelihoods. Although its residents live ashore today, their affinity for water remains unchanged.

During her youth, Feng would rush to the banks when she saw locals rowing dragon boats or heard the sound of drums. But she never thought that one day, she would join a dragon boat team, travel abroad and return with championship trophies for China.

In 1996, her opportunity arose when the town's government established a women's dragon boat team. She immediately signed up to join.

"When I was selected to join the team, I was reluctant to get out of the boat after my first training session," she said. "I kept paddling even after the others said it was time to call it a day."

In 1999, the Shatian women's dragon boat team competed in the third World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in the United Kingdom, representing China. Thanks to rigorous training, the team secured gold medals in three races.

"When we heard 'China' announced during the award ceremony, our happiness was beyond words," Feng said as her eyes welled with tears of joy. Rowing the dragon boat keeps her happy and healthy, she added.


For team member Guo Yanting, 38, the dragon boat holds a deeper meaning -- it has helped her find a new life path.

In 2018, Guo found herself at a low point, she said. Her career as a clerk was not going well, and she felt lost. It was then that her mother, a seasoned dragon boat racer, encouraged her to join the Shatian team to prepare for a 2019 race in the United States. After giving the idea some thought, she decided to resign from her job and take the chance.

Guo said that she was not competent during the initial stages of her dragon boat training. Her hands would bleed from bumping against the boat and she experienced back pain, shoulder periarthritis and strains during practices. To sharpen her skills and improve her fitness, she undertook extra training on top of the six-hour sessions she had already been attending, rising early every day to run and working to control her diet.

Her hard work soon paid off. She secured her spot on the team and traveled to the United States to participate in the 2019 dragon boat race. And after a long selection process, she became a member of the Guangdong provincial dragon boat team in 2021 and is now preparing for China's 15th National Games.

"Although paddling a dragon boat is tiring, it has brought significant changes to my life," she said. "Now, when I face any challenge in life, I encounter it head-on, just like paddling. I'm determined in everything I do, without hesitation."

Today, influenced by dragon boat culture, dragon boat classes and products have gained popularity in Dongguan. And the sport is attracting growing numbers of young people, including He Guangqun, a "post-90s" member of the Shatian women's dragon boat team.

"Our younger generations should pass on this tradition as the spirit of teamwork and striving for excellence, as demonstrated in the dragon boat race, is something that we still need in our everyday lives," she said. "I will continue paddling as our senior team members do, so that my children can see their mother's perseverance." Enditem

Feature: "Moms' dragon boat team" paddles toward victory, locally and internationally (2024)


What do the paddles in a dragon boat represent? ›

The Dragon Boat

Each boat has an ornately carved dragon's head at the bow and a tail in the stern. The boat is painted with scales. The paddles symbolically represent the dragon's claws, the drum represents the heart. .

What qualities make a successful dragon boat team? ›

Many sports have specific physical requirements to succeed, but in dragon boating all you need is an unwavering work ethic, grit, and drive. Diversity is a huge advantage since anyone can join the team and become a great paddler in a reasonably short time, enabling them to contribute to better performance by the team.

How many people paddle a dragon boat? ›

The crew of a standard dragon boat typically consists of 22 team members: 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, 1 drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and 1 steerer standing at the rear of the boat.

Is dragon boating an Olympic sport? ›

Dragon boat racing will be featured as a demonstration sport at the upcoming Paris Olympic Games after the sport's first appearance on the Olympic stage at Tokyo 2020, according to International Canoe Federation President Thomas Konietzko.

What does 4 claws on a dragon mean? ›

The four-clawed dragon would be used typically for imperial nobility and certain high-ranking officials. The three-clawed dragon was used by lower ranks and the general public (widely seen on various Chinese goods in the Ming dynasty).

What is the function of the paddle on a boat? ›

The paddle is held with two hands, some distance apart from each other. For normal use, it is drawn through the water from front (bow) to back (stern) to drive the boat forwards.

What makes a good dragon boat paddler? ›

In terms of arm position, you want to make sure that you have a nice open frame with correct upper and lower arm positions. Paddle grip is vitally important. You want to have a solid grip on the paddle for both your upper and lower arms. In addition, you want to avoid certain “tricks” or bad habits.

How can I improve my dragon boat technique? ›

With the proper reach position, the catch phase of the stroke will be the most effective. Pull – Pull the paddle directly parallel to the boat. The paddle should be in a vertical position. Make sure paddlers are sitting up and using the larger back muscles to get the full force of the stroke.

Is dragon boating good exercise? ›

All your body parts get a good workout including back, shoulders, lats, legs and core. It is a great cross fit training sport or alternative to spending hours running on a treadmill. You will get fitter, burn fat without really noticing, and best of all you will have fun while doing it.

Where do the best paddlers sit in a dragon boat? ›

That is why they say that the strongest paddlers should be in the back of the boat. Side to side and front to back weight distribution must be taken into consideration when setting up the boat. The steersperson must have the knowledge of how to move paddlers around to improve the balance of the boat.

What do you call the person who steers a dragon boat? ›

Steersperson The person located at the stern of the boat responsible for steering and giving the crew commands, preferably someone with sailing or boating experience. A minimum of two dragon boat practice sessions are required to acquire the skills necessary to steer the boat.

Can a dragon boat capsize? ›

In adverse weather conditions and when there are strong winds, Dragon Boats can be swamped with water and have been known to capsize, especially when turning sideways on to the prevailing wind or wave pattern. An inexperience crew in such circ*mstances can be a major factor in a boat capsizing.

What muscles does dragon boating work? ›

Introduction Dragon Boat is an activity that requires a participation of a large amount of muscles. The muscle groups involved are in order of involvement: the dorsal and abdominal muscles, biceps and triceps in the upper limbs and femoral quadriceps and gastrocnemius in the lower limbs.

Which country is the dragon boat racing popular in? ›

For more than 2,500 years, the sport of dragon boat racing has delighted spectators throughout southern China.

How fast can a dragon boat go? ›

It weighs 900 pounds and can travel more than 10 to 13 feet-per-second in the water with a team's stroke rate averaging 70-80 strokes per minute. During races, a colorful dragon head and tail are attached at the ends of the boat. Races vary in length from 250 to 2,000 meters.

What does the dragon boat symbolize? ›

In Chinese culture, the classic Dragon rides the clouds in the sky and commands the wind, mist and rain ..... a revered symbol of strength and power. In ancient China, the Dragon Boat with ornately carved dragon's head and tail, was used for religious purposes as a way of appeasing the rain gods.

What are the roles in the dragon boat? ›

Each dragon boat team is made up of 12 or 22 crew members, consisting of 10 or 20 paddlers, a drummer who sets the pace and a steersperson who helms the boat. The next few sections provide some basic dragon boating safety information and tips that can help you stay safe while competing or training.

Do dragon boats row or paddle? ›

ROWING – rowers use oars, therefore they are rowers. Dragon boaters use paddles therefore they are paddlers. You do not row a dragon boat!

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