FLCC Titanium cuts through the water during the 2016 World Club Crew Championships in Adelaide, Australia. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Chilliwack paddlers hope for dragon boat dominance in Hungary

A handful of locals are traveling to Europe for the 2018 World Club Crew Championships.

Seven Chilliwack athletes are heading to Hungary to compete in the International Dragon Boat Federation’s World Club Crew Championships.

The event runs July 17-22 in Szeged.

Jane Martens, Sheena Davidson, Leila Jensen and Gwen Simpson are paddlers on a 60-plus crew competing in the Senior C division.

Trichelle Chaisson serves as the boat’s drummer/caller.

Denise Carr is paddling in a 50-plus boat. The Fast & Furious will compete in the Senior B division, with Charlotte Hall serving as steerperson.

“This event happens every two years and involves teams who have already been paddling together,” Gwen Simpson said. “We paddle with the Fort Langley Canoe Club, with women from all over the Fraser Valley.”

Simpson’s team is the FLCC Titanium, coached by Ben Lee. The 50+ team is the FLCC Fast & Furious.

There was a qualifying process to get to Hungary with the teams traveling to Ontario for nationals last August and earning top five placement.

“In the Senior C division there are two teams from Ontario and three from British Columbia that will represent Canada,” Simpson said. “The toughest boats in the world are typically from Canada.”

FLCC Titanium has been together since 2013, slowly but surely building up to this point.

Simpson joined the team in 2015.

“Two years ago, our team (Titanium) went to the World Club Crew Championships in (Adelaide) Austalia,” Simpson said. “We ended up with two silver medals and a bronze and we’re hoping to do better this time.

“Some of the women on our boat were even at the 2014 World Club Crew Championships in Ravenna, Italy, but they didn’t win any medals.”

The team has a plan in place to improve their result, and it involves the Fast & Furious.

Step one is absolute discipline, with the team on the water at least three times a week, no matter what the weather.

“Rain. Cold. Whatever it was, we’ve been out there,” Simpson noted.

Then the strategy.

In 2016, a Titanium team used to being the frontrunner struggled when other boats kept pace. To get used to tight finishes, they’ve been racing Fast & Furious in training.

“When you’re one of the better teams in the local regattas, often you’re out in front,” Simpson said. “The one area where we failed in Australia was getting nervous when there was a boat right beside us.

“Practicing with our sister team has really made us focus on what is happening within our boat, and like any athletics that’s what it takes.

“Absolute focus.”

Dragon boating aside, Simpson called the experience in Australia “fabulous” and looks forward to more of the same in Hungary.

“I lived in England for 10 years, but many of our women haven’t been to that part of Europe before,” Simpson said. “Most of our team will continue traveling for a week or two after the event, but that comes later.

“People think because we’re older we’re not as focused as an Olympic-type team, but at this level you have to really work hard and be focused.

“We have a group of women who are mostly grandmothers ages 60 to 70-plus, and to see them so committed and working so hard is cool.”

Anyone who is interested in watching the FLCC teams in action can view live streams of the races online at sarkanyhajozas.hu/ccwc-live-stream

Keep in mind that the Hungarian time zone is nine hours ahead.

More info can be found at szeged2018.dragonboat.hu

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