The World Masters' Games is the largest multi-sporting event in the world. There are over 28,000 participants, 117 countries represented in 28 different sports and 45 disciplines.
We’re back; we went, we saw, we competed. The several months of training have paid off and we each have returned with a great sense of accomplishment, camaraderie & personal satisfaction. We were two teams: an all female 50+ crew (22 paddlers) and a male/female 40+ crew (12 paddlers) representing a wide cross section of paddling experience. What a thrill to paddle alongside our peers from across the globe! Connie, who initiated this whole adventure, wrote “It was a once in a lifetime experience. We met athletes from all over the world and enjoyed a warm welcome from the local New Zealanders. It has inspired me to strive to stay active as long as I can. I am thrilled to have shared this experience with so many new teammates who share a passion for dragon boating.”
Arriving in Auckland we could feel the excitement & enthusiasm in the air. As the week progressed the energy and high spirits of the Master athletes was unmistakeable as people greeted each other in the true spirit of sport and global connectedness. When we visited the various venues we sensed a dynamic and positive atmosphere. The love of sport and individual commitment to wellness was highly evident and was an aspect highlighted by many of our paddlers. Becky commented, “It was inspiring to be at an international event with 28,000 participants who are still active and engaged in their sport. Our Lethbridge teams were true to the World Masters Games mottos of ‘Sport for All’ and ‘Sport for Life’.”
While in Auckland, a man approached a few of us in a local grocery store; he was interested in how we were enjoying the games and in which sport we were competing. We later learned he was one of the Directors of the Games, and competitor in five different sports. He was 83 years old and playing host to his closest competitor in Triathlon (a Russian gentleman, also 83 years old!).
The competition race distances were 500 metres on Saturday and 200 metres on Sunday. The general consensus was that 200 metre sprint was by far the most exciting distance, for both competitors and spectators. Although the weather gods were not in our favor (we competed in wind, rain and occasionally with decreased visibility, and whitecaps on the water) the level of competition never faltered. The shared love of the sport carried everyone through the day. Doddi said “Competing in the Games was a once in a lifetime experience! The team was extraordinary as we practiced pool side (in Lethbridge) and then on the water for the first time in Auckland. Our coaches were very dedicated to the team and provided us with an excellent plan for being ready to compete. The races were challenging especially considering the weather (rain, wind more rain). I was proud of our enthusiasm, moral support and ability to paddle hard.”
Both teams were pleased with the results of their races, competing in the standard boat (22 paddlers) 500 m. and 200 m. and small boat (12 paddlers) 500 m. and 200 m. One of the women’s team goals, to finish the 200 m. sprint in less than 1 minute, was met and jubilation ensued! However the greatest satisfaction for many was to realise their dream of racing in the World Masters Games against seasoned paddlers at an international level. Karen wrote “We were full of the anticipation that we can do this. Full of awe that we actually came this far to participate in a world class event. Full of eagerness to show all we had worked so hard to learn.”
Our training plan was guided with huge support from Lori Chaki-Farrington who graciously volunteered her time and expertise to the group as a whole and to our coaches. Our thanks go out to her and many others locally who were supportive of our goal. It was evident during the races that cross-training and sustained physical activity plays an enormous role in preparation and successful results for such an event. We built a community of paddlers who have cemented new friendships and who now are committed to sharing their love of sport and the WMG experience with their counterparts. A strong message we wish to send is to youth in our community is the value of any physical activity focused on wellness, has huge benefits over a lifetime. This it true whether participating in this ancient Chinese sport or another pursuit of personal choice!
To learn more about this exciting event and local Southern Alberta paddlers go to: www.worldmastersgames2017; Dragon Boat Association of Southern Alberta (DASA) Facebook page.