Chilliwack paddler helps Canadian dragon boaters win gold

Six gold to be exact for Bruce Davidson, at the World Dragon Boat Championships in China.

Chilliwack’s Bruce Davidson paddled his way to six medals, representing Canada at the 2017 World Dragon Boat Championships.

The 62 year old traveled to Kunming, China and competed in the Senior C 60-plus division.

Dragon boat teams consist of 20 paddlers and Davidson played a key role on Canadian crews that grabbed gold in the 200, 500 and 2000 metre mixed and open races.

Mixed races included 10 men and 10 women on each boat while the open races typically (but not always) included all-male teams.

Davidson qualified for Worlds by impressing Canadian coach Kamini Jain at a lengthy tryout process that featured a week-long camp in False Creek.

Jain, a former Canadian national team member in sprint kayak, won 11 World Cup medals and was twice an Olympic finalist. She identified Davidson out of a crowd of 112 paddlers and placed him in a position of particular importance on the men’s boat.

“I was lead stroke,” he said “Lead stroke sets the rate for the whole boat, which is a bit of pressure. It’s an honour to be seat one and I was impressed that she chose me.”

Davidson prepped tirelessly for the tryout.

Paddlers were expected to be able to bench-press a certain amount of weight, and he spent countless hours working out at Murph’s Gym (403-8705 Young Rd) under the watchful eye of trainer Adam Cebula. If he wasn’t pumping iron he was on the water, padding at Cultus Lake, Harrison Lake (with the Outrigger Club) or False Creek.

He dedicated 15 months, six days a week to the task, setting the seventh aside for date night with his wife, Sheena. All the work paid off when, one long nail-biting month after the last of the tryout sessions, he saw an email in his in-box from Jain.

“I didn’t give myself much chance going into it, but every time I made it through another cut I thought, ‘Maybe she (Jain) sees something in me,’” he said. “When I got that email from her, I was speechless.”

“And I cried,” Sheena added.

The couple departed for China Oct. 8 even though the event didn’t start until Oct. 18.

That was absolutely by design.

“Kunming is 6,000 feet above sea level, and you really notice the difference with the air being thinner,” Davidson said. “You really felt the altitude and I was really glad we went the week before.

“We spent four days just walking and doing some light jogging, and then the coach had us on the water for four days before the competition.

“Going early made a big difference for me.”

In the mixed 2000 metre final, Davidson helped his boat cut through the course in 11:03.003 while the second-place Australians took 11:23.879.

That got him onto the podium for the first time, providing a moment he’ll always remember.

“Being up on that podium hearing ‘Oh Canada’ as the flag was raised up, it was goose-bumps,” he said. “The first time you’re up there is just something else. It’s hard to explain the feeling but it was emotional.”

Sheena is also a dragonboater who paddles with the Fort Langley Club’s Team Titanium. Husband and wife will tackle a new adventure next summer when both compete in the Club Crew World Championships, running July 17-22 in Szeged, Hungary.

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