Amazing was the word used by Evelyn Kansy and Sharen DeGelder to describe the experience the Dispirit Housewives dragon boat team had in China for the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival last month.
“It was such an opportunity. We saw probably the top dragon boaters in the world compete,” said DeGelder, coach of the Dispirit Housewives. “A little out of our league. It’s their national sport.”
DeGelder then joked that they didn’t embarrass themselves, which was her focus.
“We were within a second or two. Watching those teams was just awesome,” she said.
Kansy, who is in her first year with the Despirit Housewives, said the other teams “just pounded away that paddle like machines. It was just phenomenal. Their stroke (rate) was phenomenally high.”
“You can hardly see the paddles move. The paddlers are the same size. Paddles go in and out like they are tied together,” said DeGelder.
The group enjoyed the experience of facing the national teams, but also experiencing the Chinese culture. Among the cultural aspects they noticed is how orderly things are. People are all on the same side when using an escalator. The team meeting for the event lasted two-and-a-half hours. Instructions were read in Chinese, then done in English. If a member of the Dispirit Housewives had a question, the rule was re-read.
DeGelder pointed out their team can paddle between 60 to 80 strokes per minute. The national teams were doing 140.
Kansy added that a strong team can complete traditional 500 metre distances in under two minutes. The teams in the festival were reaching the 400-m distance finish line in one minute, 36 seconds. DeGelder added that since the athletes, who train year-round, are representing their country and are paid, they don’t have fun. She recalls seeing a team of young girls coming off the water crying after placing fourth.
“Their coach was just screaming at them because they embarrassed their nation,” she said. “The fellow who invited us to go, he said that he was inviting Canadian teams to go because he wanted us to see what can be accomplished. How high the bar is. For me it did the exact opposite. I do it for fun and fitness. I’m not world class, I don’t pretend to be.”