So, Luke has just come back from 14th world championships in Pattaya, Thailand. We thought we would catch up with him to see how he and the Great Britain Dragonboat Team got on.
Joe: Hi Luke, thanks for sitting down with us today. Why don’t you let our readers know what you’ve been up to?
Luke: Hi, No problem. Well, I’ve spent the last year developing and training in dragon boat racing which ended with me participating in the World Championships in Thailand for Team GB.
J: Wow, that’s a pretty big achievement! Just for our readers, what is dragon boating, as I’m sure a few readers are probably unaware of what it is?
L: Well essentially, Dragon boating is a rowing sport where rowers sit along with a narrowboat which is traditionally decorated to resemble a dragon. The teams propel the boat along using paddles in a coordinated manner. Aside from the physicality, I see dragon boating as a massive team event where friends come together and show how fast they can make that boat move. It’s a great bonding sport where we all support and push each other to be the best.
J: That’s a great description, you can see how passionate you are about it. So how did you get into the sport, and how did you reach such a high level?
L: Well I got into it through one of the charity fundraising events Celestra participated in last year. When I first stepped into the boat, I saw it as a bit of fun, and we were all doing something great for charity.
From that event, the dragon boat club that we trained with, then invited me back to do some training with them. They took me in as an amateur paddler not thinking I was ready to race with them at that point. But after 2 months of training with their team, they started getting me involved with their racing and it grew from there. When Team GB started training and trialling for paddlers, it was suggested to me that maybe I should try out for the team. Initially, It was to see where I was at against some of the best in the county.
The trials really pushed me because I didn’t know where I stood against the country’s top athletes as I’m still new to the dragon boating world. Celestra founded me into the local team and that team founded me into a higher level.
J: What a great journey. So, let’s talk about your time in Thailand. How was your experience; how did the team do?
L: Well the first few days we got to Thailand; nobody knew what to expect. It was a new experience to the team, and we were figuring out how we were going to do this as nobody had raced in these hot humid temperatures before. Personally, I have never been in anything over 30 degrees before or to that humidity, so I had to acclimatise.
After a few days, we started to get into training for the event. We completed lots of runs and swims in the conditions and we weren’t allowed to sit in aircon for the first few days, which was challenging, but we soldiered on. We also completed 2k, 1k, 500m and 200m training session in quick succession in the boat to get ourselves geared up for the main event.
When we got into the race days, we started with the 2k event. This race I was a reserve for because I had several races coming up. Although I hated being a reserve and wanted to get stick in, I knew the plan from the coach was to kick in on the other days and do my bit then.
Day 2 was the 1k event. This was a difficult day as this was the day where the team pushed me further as I hadn’t participated the day before ha-ha. We had both the open and mixed crew for these races, I think there were about 8 races that day, it was ridiculously intense. We qualified in the first open race and got into the minor final on times and from there we finished 6th. In the mixed event, we finished 8th.
On day 3 we then competed in the 500 meters races; these short distances are my favourite. I like the fact it’s more ‘bursty’ and quick which gets the adrenalin pumping! It was a mixed day and we were against the Chinese/Taipei in this heat. Our coach tactically decided were going to let them have the start and we would sneak upon them. We naively thought this would work but turns out they were the quickest crew and ended up winning the whole event. We did have a chuckle post-race at that.
On day 4 we hit the 200 meters. My absolute favourite of all the distances! For 200m I love the fact you’re just absolutely gunning it to the line, its pure adrenaline. We came 6th out of all the teams in the open and the mixed. It was insane. These races were quick, around 42 seconds and China broke the world record with 39 seconds. They stayed very lowkey in the whole event, so to experience with my own eyes was insane.
Also, it’s quite interesting to point out, that our team compared to some of the other countries teams is relatively small. While we were racing in multiple events and tiering ourselves out, a lot of the other countries had individual teams for the events. It just shows you the level of popularity of the sport and the level of skill and determination and money these countries invest in this sport.
On the final day. It was the leftovers of the 500m and one of the biggest events. We came 10th in this event so we didn’t do that well. We as a team were tiered and the other teams were just nailing it. It was a great experience.
J: Wow, you packed quite a lot in then over a few days. So, what’s next for you now that your back?
L: Personally, I’m going to try for the Euros next year along with the Worlds after that. As a team, we have also decided we need to do more and must find ways to challenge and make it more competitive for each other. Next year I, as well as the whole team, have to retrial again. It’s great to go through this process as it keeps us competitive. Your fighting for your spot, and because we have seen the best in the world, we know what to achieve and what to aim for. This tactic of making us work hard for that spot will hopefully get us further in the competitions to come.
J: How about longer-term, is the sport now ingrained in you now?
L: I think this experience has driven me on to do other sport like actual rowing. Not on a competitive level, but just to see if I can do it along with out-rigging. I’m interested in working with different types of boats and rigging with much longer distances. This is something that interests me.
They are also looking to put dragon boating into the Olympics also so who knows!?
J: Nice, so aside from the event how was your experience in Thailand?
L: Well this is the first time I have gone international, I’ve only ever been as far as Spain, so it’s defiantly been an eye-opening experience and a little bit of a culture shock. I thoroughly enjoyed the culture out there and as a team, we really blended with the locals. Visiting the local markets as a team was great and I loved the local Tai food and smoothies. It was just amazing I could happily go back there.
J: Sounds like you had a really good time all in all.
L: Yeah it was great. And I would just like to take this opportunity to thank John and Celestra for helping me through this journey with their sponsorship. It really helped me relax a little more because It was my first time doing something like this. It meant I wasn’t worried about getting to the event which meant I could really focus on doing my best for myself and the team. I’m very grateful. Thanks, Celestra.
J: And thanks for talking to us today
L: My pleasure.