Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Row Well and Live

Today's quiz:  in what sport can a boat of 60 year old rowers win a race against 20 year old racers?

In Ithaca, NY on Bastille Day 2012, we were treated to a sport where that can happen.  The secret is coordination. The elderly team, if coordinated, will beat out the young ones, as a dragon boater explained to the crowd.

It's a sport where adults of all ages can participate and breast cancer survivors can make rude gestures at the obsolete medical advice that, after breast cancer surgery, they can give up activities such as carrying grocery bags. (More on breast cancer survivors dragonboaters later).

Maybe no more grocery bag carrying, but they sure can row a boat.  So can the seniors. 
Welcome to Dragon Boat racing.  Once something combined to certain countries in the Far East, dragon boats have caught on all over the country.

I've wanted to see a dragon boat race since I visited Philadelphia about 10 years ago, and the news shows were full of coverage focusing on the races to begin - right after I left.

It was love at first sight. Love as a spectator, that is. To my knowledge, there are no teams where I live in the Binghamton, NY area.

The boats are simple. 
In the front, next to the dragon head, a caller sits.  He or she beats the cadence (yes, like in that famous ship battle scene in the movie Ben Hur.)  Around 18-20 rowers are in each boat, along with a steerer.
Here is another view of the empty boats.
And, of course, there is the beautiful scenery of Ithaca, NY.

The names of the teams were amusing or inspirational.  My favorite was "Dragonboat Z" (Cornell's team), who won a bronze metal.  Other teams included the Puff Puff Dragons, the Wall Street Dragons, Big Red October, and Water Viper.

After the "Dotting the Eye" ceremony (more on that in another post), the breast cancer survivor team came  on stage and talked about their sport.  The speaker, a retired nurse in her 70's, had been an oncology nurse (ironically) and remembered the hundreds of post-mastectomy patients she had talked to, cautioning them about all the things they could no longer do.  Now, as a breast cancer survivor, she dragon boats.

I've blogged before about how my hackles go up whenever breast cancer is seemingly put ahead of other cancers.  My hackles raised when she talked about the fact that only breast cancer survivors could race on her team.  But my hackles lowered a little when I did some research about the link between dragon boating and breast cancer survivors. It's symbolic and I understand the symbolism (knowing several breast cancer survivors) although I could wish they would take other cancer survivors.

It does make me wish I could get my 80-something mother in law on a dragon boat team.

Have you participated in dragon boating?  Have you seen the festivals abroad, or in one of the many North American cities now sponsoring them?

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