Southern Alberta will have its share of representation at this year’s World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand. Dragon boat racers from various teams in Lethbridge have come together to form two teams that are heading off the Southern Hemisphere to compete in the games.
Held every four years, the World Masters is the largest multi-sport event in the world with 25,000 participants from over 100 different countries competing to show the world what they can do.
Dragon boat racer, Connie gross, heard about the games from her sister and worked to put a team into motion. “A couple years ago, [my sister] put me on to [the games]. Two summers ago I started planting the seed with a couple other ladies to see if we could actually make this work,” Connie explains, “I contacted some other ladies through the Dragon boat Association trying to get a team together, and by the fall  we were able to start holding initial meetings.”
Competing in the large boat with 22 members is the women’s 50-plus team, called the Coulee Classic Dragons. The Canuck Cruizers
will compete in the small boat with 12 members as a mixed 40-plus men’s and women’s team.
“It’s been a long time coming! To get this many people together, and get this many people organized, it’s a big commitment to
do,” says Connie. “You’re putting a lot of money out; you have to train for a year, and time and effort.”
It may be off-season in Canada, but down in New Zealand their teams are paddling at full force right now. Both teams have been training through the winter months at the University of Lethbridge and Nicholas Sheran pools, and the Cruizers and the Dragons have had to find unique ways to practise. At the U of L makeshift seats can be set up poolside to emulate the paddlers’ experience. At Nicholas Sheran a dragon boat has been taken in to the facility, and on practise days the teams can rig up the boat in the pool to get a better idea of how to row in sync.
Connie says the teams have come a long way since the initial planning stages in 2015. “I see the improvement in everybody. I see the teamwork that is building, that fitness level that has increased. What more could you want for active seniors?” she exclaims.
The world Masters Games take place April 21-30, 2017. The Coulee Classic Dragons and the Canuck Cruizers will hit the open water April 29 and 30.