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A six-year-old boy's dream comes true

When I was about 6 years old, I met the 1995 South African rugby team. These guys are not only sporting heroes, they’re legends. The whole country looked up to them with an enormous amount of respect and admiration – they united a divided country through sport. I could only dream of being anything like them.

As far back as I can remember, I have always been competitive. It was not enough to be strong and fast, I needed to prove it. I found my first sporting niche with rowing in high school, and it was a good option for me as my ball skills were non-existent. I excelled in rowing through hard work, and after winning gold medals at just 16, it became a real possibility to represent my country for a sport I loved – just like my 1995 heroes. This goal consumed me, and I put everything I could into my training so I could compete in the world champs. Alas, some bad luck in the first year, and politics in the next meant that I did not make the cut. This broke me.

I spent the next twelve years not doing anything serious. Rock climbing and powerlifting kept me entertained until 2019 when that competitive itch and desire to compete on the water returned. I started to look at rowing and sailing, but for some reason I remembered the dragon boats I saw on the water back in the day. Lo and behold, DSA was near where I worked, so I gave it a try.

I instantly loved the sport. It had all the things I loved about rowing and so much more. The excitement of various race lengths from 200m sprints to 2km races make it high intensity, fast and adrenaline fuelled! Rowing would never set up a race where there was a possibility of boats crashing into each other like the 2km circuits we do in dragon boat racing – I just loved it all. I quickly discovered that I was a half decent paddler, so my competitive drive came screaming back to life.

DSA is not only geographically suitable for me, but at heart, it is my dragon boating home. I always felt welcome and a part of the team, and my competitive spirit has been nurtured there. Everyone is friendly, helpful and easy to get along with, and we all share the same love of dragon boating. George Louie’s coaching style suits me well – his bluntness gets to point, and his knowledge is well beyond the mechanics of a stroke. He has also guided me through some mental hurdles and helped me reach the next level.

Near the beginning of the 2022-23 season, I once again made it my goal to represent my country (Australia these days). George and I set the goal of me being in the Auroras squad by the 2024 Hong Kong Asian Champs. From there, I upped my gym training and went to every session available including OC6. When the state team selection came along, I was selected after the first round of trials – my training was definitely getting me somewhere.

After attending the Aurora’s selection camp to get some trial experience, I woke up on January 26 to an email saying I had been selected as an Aurora. I was overcome with emotion – I did not think I would get in. After all the rejection I experienced in my rowing days, I could not believe my dreams were finally on the right track.

A team of australian dragon boat paddlers standing on an overpass with the Hong Kong city skyline in the background

My first international dragon boat experience with the Auroras was at the Macau International Dragon Boat Regatta in June. We were met by media and fanfare on arrival, with cheerleaders, mascots, and grandstands full of spectators creating an electric atmosphere. The whole event was even televised. In the end, the Opens crew came in ninth overall, and I was honoured to be one of three members to receive the trophy – I’ve never been so excited to come ninth!

Next was Hong Kong. The buzz and fanfare continued, with athletes often being stopped by fans for photos and sometimes even interviews with the local media! When it came to racing, it was like Macau in many ways, but the crazy swell in the water made the paddling a lot more interesting. Our mixed team and women’s team managed to podium, while the open’s team were happy to be in the A-final after having a strong race in the repechage.

Following Hong Kong, I was on standby for the World Champs in Thailand. I took this to mean that my responsibility was to be in the best shape I could be without risking injury or illness and be ready to be able to drop everything with no notice and join the crew in Thailand.

On Sunday August 29 – just one week before the World Champs were due to start – I finished my final Auroras training session and went to the local café with some of the crew. Just as we were leaving, I got the call – I was going to Thailand! It was awesome to have the crew nearby for that moment.

I am still in a bit of shock – my dream to represent my country is finally happening. Now things are a blur, and I am trying to get everything ready in time for my flight on Friday...

See you all on the other side😊

Three people, two women and one male in the middle, standing holding medals around their neck

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