I'm just back from the World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. It was a tremendous event. I paddled in and helped coach the Senior Men's team and the Senior Mixed team, but mostly I paddled and Jim Farintosh coached.
We won five of the seven men's and mixed races, winning the men's 1000m, 500m and 200m and the Mixed 2000m and 200m races. The men's crew was winning when we sunk in the 2000m race and the mixed crew placed 2nd in the 500m race.
The Senior women, coached by Tim Schaus and Kirk Poulos, swept the 2000m, 1000m, 500m and 200m races.
Our men's team was comprised of; Ron Wright, Andreas Schoppel, Chris Helyar, John Spiers, Peter Koschanow, and Tamas Partay from the Mayfair Predators; myself, Stephen Gallant, Bruce Chiasson, Brian Melanson, Tim Schaus, Kirk Poulos, Max Tracy, David Gallant, and Don Brien from the Dragon Beasts, Peter Virtanen, Anthony Sword, and Lance Stewart from CSDBC, Jean Marie Lapointe from Verdun Adrenaline, Chris Grunow from False Creek and Gary Quartermain and Don Irvine from Ottawa and British Columbia respectively. Anne Gallant, who strokes the Dragon Beasts, was our drummer and did a great job.
Andrea Joy and Angela Adams from the Dragon Beasts, Chris Linton and Anne Baker from the Collingwood Sidelaunchers (my favorite Dragon Boat team), Julie Alleyn, Jennifer Harris and Sandy Field from the Mayfair Predators, Heather Taylor, Annie Boulding, Pat Begonzii, Shannon Brenner and Andrea Kwon from False Creek and/or British Columbia, HelenChan from Verdun, and Michelle Lavoie from Ottawa, paddled in the Mixed crew over the various distances.
We had a great team and a lot of depth, which we needed because the competition is so long - it starts
Boats and Lanes and other Stuff - Part Two
There has been lots of talk about the course and the boats. The boats were "Swift" boats - they were not BuK's. We spent 3 days of practice trying to adjust the people in our crews so the boat would sit level. They sat very low in the water, and if you balanced the weight fo the bodies, they sat stern heavy. They seemed to be well made boats, and the balance front and back is something you can adjust to, but the boats did not have enough free board and that created major issues, especially in the men's 2K. Our Senior men's team sank, even after taking out our 2 heaviest paddlers and putting in 2 women who weighed under 125 lbs each. I don't think that at the world championships the athletes should have to conform to the boats, I think the boats should be sufficient for the athletes, so while the boats were a disappointment, we shrugged it off as just another obstacle on along the way to success. In the mixed 2K we made adjustments, including 2 bailers on the drum that we could grab and use as needed, and we won. The boats were not an issue that couldn't be dealt with for the rest of the distances.
The course was a different matter. It appeared that a drought has left the water level 2 to 3 meters lower than normal, and this made the course extremely shallow. To make things worse, this was not a uniform situation, and lanes 1 and 6 were the deepest, and lanes 3 and 4 were the most shallow. This created "results that could not be explained" in the 1000's and the 500m mixed, (the 200's did not seem to be affected) and the organizers showed a lot of guts changing the seeding pattern for the unisex 500m racing, The laneyness cost us the 500m mixed (we came 2nd out of lane 3), but in the end we won 5 out of 7, so we can't complain too much. It is always disappointing when you don't have even lanes, esp at a major event.
I felt the most sorry for the Premier mixed crew from Canada. They clearly had the race of their lives in the final - in lane one, and walked the race. I was really impressed, they had the lane, and they took full advantage. To me, they looked so good, that I really wonder how they would have done on a fair course - the unfair course, which was no fault of their own - took away the chance for them to know if they could have won, or medalled, had the lanes been even. I gotta tell you though, laney or not, they sure looked good in that final.
Images and Impressions - Part Three
Here are some random observations from Worlds;
- I was more impressed with the Grand Dragon division than in Sydney. Team Canada was really good - props to Pat Bradley and the other coaches - the rest of the division is getting better - not there yet - but improving.
- I will always remember the vision of the Senior Women dancing to "Simply The Best" after the 500m event at the Awards ceremony.
- I could not have asked for more from the Senior Men/ Mixed crews. Whatever it took.
- Whoever was in charge of weather did a great job, except for the crazy lightning storm during which they kept the races going long after most people had sought shelter. I was a little nervous under the tent with metal supports.
- Jim Farintosh is the master. Period. Last dance with the Boss.
- When I was a 20 year old hick from Nova Scotia, I got invited to train in Oakville with a couple of club mates from Banook Canoe Club. It was a big deal to me. I was a shy kid, way over my head. It would have been a disaster except for two guys from Balmy Beach, who would go on to win the National Championship in C2 that year. They took me and my partner, Dave Morris under their wing. They gave us boats, they trained with us and they did everything they could to help us - and then they went out and beat us (me and Dave came 3rd at Nationals that year, a breakthrough that changed my career). I never forgot the class that John Speirs and Ron Wright showed that summer. It was an honor to paddle with those guys in dragonboat in four World Championships.
- I hope I never paddle in a SWIFT boat again.
- I am glad I was there to see the Chinese men storm the field from lane 5. There is no way to describe it. The best part was the way they celebrated afterward. In 13 years of International competition, I have never seen the Chinese celebrate after a win. This was one for the ages and they knew it.
- Helen Chan, Jen Harris and Sandy Field were total pros in the Senior Mixed Crews.
- Kevin Kwan is a rock star. I am amazed that the athletes bought in like they did to his warm up and stretching - Kevin got the Senior teams ready mentally and physically. . The best part was watching the giant Russians trying to copy it. Thanks Kev.
- How bout those Iranian crews. They were really good.
- At my 7th Worlds, I was finally smart enough to ditch the expensive party and the senior teams (men and women) and friends, paid $60 for a huge buffet with loads of food, and unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks.
- The Canadian uniforms were by far the nicest.
- Make sure you drum at Worlds. It's a long story.
- Make sure you always have spare paddles and David Gallant in the boat. It's a long story.
That's a wrap - congratulations to all the Canadian Crews for a great showing at Worlds 2009.