When Shari Parsons returns next year for the 12th World Nations Dragon Boat championship in Welland, she will be prepared for the rigours of the international competition.
A member of the Trinidad & Tobago national program since 2011, the 18-year-old was a member of the Bishop Anstey High School girls’ team that took part in the Canadian championship in Welland last week.
The team won the Under-17 girls crown and competed with boys in a mixed Under-15 team.
“This was an excellent opportunity for me and my teammates,” said Parsons, who enters the University of the West Indies in September to pursue business and sports management studies. “I made new friends and was exposed to the course which will be used for next year’s World Games.”
Keith Dalip, who started the dragon boat program at the school five years ago, is confident Parsons will be in the twin-island republic squad next summer.
“I know for certain we will be here for the championships and Shari, once she’s healthy, will be in the team,” he said. “She’s disciplined and determined and has matured rapidly to become an elite athlete. There’s no doubt she will be an integral part of the national side going forward.”
As president of the twin-island republic dragon boat federation, Dalip used his extensive global networks to secure an invitation for Bishop Anstey to travel to Ontario for the just concluded Canadian championship. This was the school’s second overseas trip following a visit to Long Beach, California three years ago.
“This was a chance for them to be exposed to Canada which has had a long and friendly association with Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean and some top-class competition,” said Dalip. “This was not our strongest team as some players could not make the trip because of financial challenges. It’s a young side and this was definitely a learning experience for them.”
The conditions in Welland posed a challenge for the visiting schoolgirls as it was quite different from those in the twin-island republic.
“Back home, we compete in open water,” said Dalip. “We have waves, winds and tidal fluctuations. In Welland, its inland water body, the water is flat and there is wind which does not evolve into waves. The flat water is nice to paddle in as opposed to home where we sometimes have to paddle just to survive. The only downside of racing in flat water is that you have to paddle harder and it takes a lot out of the individuals in the boat. Also, we have salt water at home which makes the boat buoyant and lighter. In the fresh water here, the boat becomes sluggish.”
A dragon boat team comprises 20 paddlers sitting two abreast, a cox who steers the vessel from the rear and a drummer who sits at the front and leads the paddlers through the race.
Timing, strength and endurance are key elements for success in the sport that was introduced to T & T by businessman and University of Toronto graduate, Franco Siu Chong. It was timed to coincide with the 2006 bicentennial celebration marking the arrival of Chinese migrants.
Azana Clement, a teacher at Bishop Anstey, managed the team that returned home last Friday.
By RON FANFAIR