They laughed, cried, danced, hugged and paddled like winners.
The local breast cancer dragon boat team, Sunshine Dragons Abreast, showed in Peterborough last week at the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival that they are not to be trifled with. During four races, they passed many other boats from the U.S., Australia and Canada. They won the semifinal in their group and were one second behind the winning boat in the final.
The races were just part of the festivities that included a street parade, opening ceremonies and a gala dinner for the 2,000 women (and two men) affected by breast cancer.
Dr. Don McKenzie, the University of British Columbia sports medicine doctor who began the breast cancer dragon boat movement, spoke at the dinner and described his exciting recent research results, which showed a 65 per cent increase in survival rate when participants were in an exercise program.
Coach Gillian Kydd said much of the team's success is due to the commitment by paddlers over the winter to improve their strength, flexibility and endurance. She said when she called for a final push in the races, the team responded with a surge of power.
The most important message from the ultra-pink and often joyous festival was awareness. Much as the Sunshine Dragons members love being on the team, they wish there were no new women qualified to join them. One paddler said it broke her heart in Peterborough to see so many young women in the regatta.
Five husbands accompanied the Sunshine Coast team, and other family and friends joined them at the site to cheer the team on.
"I know there is something very right with this world when I see so much unconditional love and support given by family and friends," McKenzie said.
Sunshine Dragons Abreast are grateful for the support of the community, including their sponsors: the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Marketplace IGA in Gibsons and Construction Aggregates.