Amazing!!! The Philippines’ vaunted Cobra-PDBF Dragon Boat Team once again proved their mettle by finishing 2nd overall in the first-ever IDBF Dragon Boat World Cup competition held in Fuzhou, China last June 10-12. Not given much of a chance with the many obstacles they had to overcome to be able to compete, the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) nonetheless dug deep, drew inspiration from its small group of loyal backers, and almost came back home with the overall championship trophy! Host country and heavy favorite, China, would later clinch the overall crown, but the underdog Pinoys were right there fighting tooth-and-nail, giving the Chinese team the fight of their lives.
Only five (5) events were played in this best-of-the-best competition. Only sixteen (16) elite countries were honored with an invitation to participate. And only twelve (12) teams were there to answer the starting gun. Each team was allowed only 28 members each, to compete for the five (5) premiere events at stake, namely: the 100m standard mixed, the 200m standard mixed, the 500 standard mixed, the 400 small boat relay, and the 1000 small boat team pursuit. The 28-member limit provided our Pinoy paddlers a better chance, with the other teams not able to bring in their vaunted specialists in the sprints, the middle distance and the long distance races.
This ‘feel-good’ Cinderella story almost didn’t happen however, considering the many heartaches our team had to go through.
First, there was the perennial problem of the absence of support from the national sports body. Nothing has changed from the time our paddlers came home victorious with five (5) gold medals from Tampa’s IDBF World Championship last 2011. Despite President P-Noy’s promise to stop the politics that was ruining the sport, things have remained the same. No support from the PSC? No problem, our paddlers continued to thread water for the country and for their sheer love for the sport.
Next, they had to contend with the bureaucratic red-tape that threatened to shut the door on more than half the delegation. Fifteen (15) of the 28 members of the team come from the military service, and it would take a few kind and determined souls in the military organization to expedite matters.
With the military clearances finally complete, the team immediately flew to Xiamen, then took a 4-hour train ride to Fuzhou, arriving just in time for the first event. They didn’t have time to practice, didn’t have time to acquaint themselves with the course, and didn’t even have time to check-in their bags at the hotel!
No matter. For this team was made of sterner stuff. This team was built on pride, on the ‘can-do’ spirit, and on sheer grit and determination. So determined – in fact – that at the end of the tournament, our Pinoy paddlers would surprise the heavyweights with 4 podium finishes, two of which were gold medal harvests!
At the end of the competition, the medal tally read: China (3 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze), Philippines (2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze), Canada (2 Silver, 2 Bronze), USA (1 Silver), and Australia (1 Bronze).
Canada, which will be hosting the IDBF World Championship next year, had been expected to give China its strongest challenge. No dice. The Cobra – PDBF Team ruined what was supposed to be a preview of the China-Canada clash for next year’s World Championship. On top of that, the Philippines also set a new world record in the 100m standard mixed category with a time of 23.455 sec, relegating the heavily-favored Chinese team third behind Canada, which finished just a shade lower at 23.825 sec.
During the Thanksgiving Lunch and Presscon tendered by Cobra for the victorious Cobra-PDBF Team, Michael Ngo, AVP for Marketing, Media and Budget, congratulated the team and pledged more support on behalf of Asia Brewery and Interbev. He highlighted the fact that for the Chinese, dragonboat racing had started over 2000 years ago; while Philippine Dragon Boating only started in 1991! China’s experience of more than 2000 years against the Philippines’ measly 23 years would result to a no-contest, it would seem. No problemo, my man! Inspite of the vast advantage in years, our Cobra-PDBF Elite Crew showed them far superior technique, training and teamwork.
Michael spoke proudly of how the team bested the hulking paddlers of Canada, the USA, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Russia, Great Britain and Guam. And he likened Philippine Dragon Boating to the country; that if united and steered towards the right direction, can one day transform into a solid force that can be the best in the world.
Indeed! Our Pinoy paddlers have proven time and again that they can triumph over the best of the rest of the world in the sport of Dragon Boating. And we can certainly parlay this win into something greater for our country, if we only take time to discern the precious lessons it holds for us.
For more on Philippine Dragon Boating, read our previous issue:
(Photos courtesy of PDBF and Philippine Dragon Boating)