Philippine paddlers win in Dragon Boat World Cup

Filipino rowers eager to start a great race and finish in China. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

YICHANG-XINGTAI, China—Dagun Pilipinas Dragon Boat Team reaped several awards in two separate races held recently in the cities of Yichang and Xingtai in celebration of China’s Dragon Boat Festival.

The Philippine delegation won four bronze medals in the 200-meter mixed 10-seater and 8-seater, the women’s 10-seater, and the 2000-meter mixed 8-seater categories at the 2023 International Canoe Federation Dragon Boat World Cup held on June 21-23 at the Xujiachong Harbor in Zigui County, Yichang.

Zigui is known as the “hometown of dragon boats in China” and the birthplace of the poet Qu Yuan, who is believed to have been associated with the beginnings of the Dragon Boat Festival.

Dagun Pilipinas, a club team under the Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragonboat Federation, raced in the finals in all categories against the dominant national teams of China.

“We did not expect any win but we trained hard and we gave our best … so we are very thankful for our victory,” team captain Lovely Malafo said, adding that it was the team’s first foray in the international dragon boat competition.

‘Dream come true’

Dragon boat
Dragonboat race champions pose for a souvenir photo. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Team president Aldrin Ulat said it was “a dream come true” for Dagun Pilipinas to compete in the World Cup. “The level of competition was very challenging, and racing with strong teams from China and other countries was an eye-opening experience for us,” he said.

Dagun Pilipinas’ rigorous monthslong training resulted in its ranking third overall in the prestigious competition in which 14 teams—including several teams from the host nation China, and from Hong Kong, Singapore, Iran, India, Malaysia, the United States, Tanzania, Zambia, Macau, and the Philippines—took part.

“We learned a lot from this experience,” Ulat said. “Seeing the different dragon boat skills and techniques shown by the other competitors drives us to train harder.” 

The Filipino paddlers also made waves in another dragon boat tourney as it bagged three gold and three silver medals at the 2023 “Taihang Quancheng Cup” Xingtai International Dragon Boat Invitational held on June 25. 

Dagun Pilipinas fielded two teams and clinched the first and second spots in the 100-meter open 10-seater, 200-meter open 10-seater, and 2000-meter open 10-seater categories against competing teams from China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the United States, Germany, and Nigeria. among others.  

Building a family

Founded in 2018, Dagun Pilipinas is composed of seasoned and novice paddlers brought together by their common interest in dragon boat racing.

“It does not only develop camaraderie, it also builds a family,” Malafo said of the team.

Ulat said joining an international competition was “great exposure” for the team and “good motivation for our new members to work hard in order to excel in the sport.” 

The Dagun Pilipinas China crew was supported by Foton Philippines, Standard Insurance (Caloocan branch), and Richbuild Construction Corp.

Related: Taiwan the second time around

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