Stepping into a dragon boat is like clockwork for Joanne Cowan.
As Cowan and her 19 other teammates begin to paddle, she slowly ticks off the mental checklist that she learned in training to make sure she’s performing at her best.
Rotate and reach forward as far as you can, catch the water, pull through and exit with a push, before retaking your paddle.
It’s that formula that led the Langford resident and the Canadian senior C women’s team (age 60 plus) to three gold medals in the two kilometre and the 200 and 500 metres races during the 13th World Nations Dragon Boat Championships in Kunming, China recently.
“We were pretty excited,” said Cowan, who is part of the Gorging Dragons that are based out of the Vancouver Island Paddling Club. “It was very interesting to see and learn how other people do it and see the results. It was fun, I really enjoyed it.”
Saanich’s Rob Stubbington and Nanaimo’s Jody Berry were also on the team to bring home gold.
Cowan’s journey to the championships began months ago, when she first applied to qualify for the team. In addition to attending a training camp last fall, Cowan also had to complete monthly time trials, as well as physical fitness examinations.
Once she had been selected to the team, training intensified. Cowan practiced several days a week, and even travelled to Vancouver weekly to train with the team’s coach.
Her hard work paid off in China during the championships, which are held every second year and considered to be the pinnacle of competition in the sport.
Now, with three gold medals under her belt, Cowan hopes to continue competing. The Gorging Dragons’ senior C, as well as senior B have qualified to go to Szeged, Hungary in July, which Cowan plans to try out for.
Cowan wasn’t the only one to find success in China. Victoria’s Tom Arnold, Mike Weirmier and Matthew Michaelis won gold in the 500 metre and 2,000 metre senior A mixed category, as well as silver in the 200 and 1,00 metre races. In total, Canada brought home 28 gold medals, 13 silver and eight bronze.
“We are very proud of our athletes and their well-deserved medals. It’s spectacular to see them dominate so many events, and prove what a world class source of athletes Vancouver Island is,” said Gabby Kalaw, vice president of VI Paddling.